Saudi takes next sporting steps in hosting WTA Finals
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The World Tennis Association (WTA) has confirmed that the next three tournament finals will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 2024-2026.

Saudi Arabia has been building itself up as one of the world’s leading sports hosting destinations. The addition of the WTA to its roster is a significant moment for the country, which has long faced criticism for women’s rights issues.

Under its agreement with the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF), the WTA has secured record prize money of $15.25m for the 2024 finals with further increases planned for the 2025 and 2026 editions of the match.

Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, remarked: “Bringing the WTA Finals to Riyadh is an exciting new opportunity for us and a positive step for the long-term growth of women’s tennis as a global and inclusive sport. 

“We’ve been impressed by the commitment shown by the Saudi Tennis Federation to grow the sport at all levels, and we have no doubt that players and fans can look forward to a world-class event in Riyadh as the finale to the 2024, 2025 and 2026 seasons.”

The WTA has been prioritising investment and financial support for its growth plans of late, and the naming of Riyadh as a host city plays into this strategy. Investment plans have been made for marking digital and fan engagement as part of the STF partnership.

Marina, Storti, CEO, WTA Ventures – Source: WTA

Summing up the WTA’s strategy for growth in an interview with Insider Sport, Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, the association’s commercial division, explained that the organisation focuses on finding partners “who want to grow women’s tennis and give it the value, promotion and reach that it deserves”.

On the Saudi deal, Storti remarked: “This multi-year partnership expands the WTA’s presence in the Middle East and brings us to a country with huge potential for growth, as well as supporting our ambitious plans to accelerate the global development and progress of women’s tennis. 

“We’re looking forward to working with the Saudi Tennis Federation over the coming years to grow the WTA Finals, create more fans, and inspire more people to play our brilliant sport.”

The WTA states that Ridyah was chosen following a ‘comprehensive evaluation process over several months’. Growth for women’s tennis in the Middle East has also been cited, with participation levels tripling ‘to almost 50%’ since 2015.

Saudi Arabia has been moving forward with its policies towards sport, and women’s sport, in recent years. The government has been evaluating new sources of revenue to move away from its reliance on oil production.

In November 2023 the Next Gen ATP Finals were held in Jeddah, the first official professional tennis tournament hosted by the Saudi Tennis Federation. The Diriyah Tennis Cup was also held in 2019 and 2022 and the Riyadh Season Tennis Cup in 2023.

Outside of tennis, the Kingdom’s involvement in boxing and football have been well publicised. Some high-profile boxing title fights have been held in the country and a number of big name footballers have moved to the Saudi Pro League.

On tennis, the WTS and STF plan to develop multi-year initiatives to support boys and girls tennis participation in the country. This will include a planned expansion of the WTA Foundation, its philanthropic arm. A core aim is to double the number of children participating in tennis from 30,000 in 2023 to 60,000 in 2024.

Arij Mutabagani, President of the Saudi Tennis Federation, said: “Hosting the WTA Finals is absolutely huge for the future of tennis in Saudi Arabia and growing sport in general, especially amongst our young girls. 

“And that’s entirely our focus, to inspire future generations of players and celebrate women’s tennis. We want to help them to believe that they too belong on centre court, as seeing is believing. Through the tournament we have the potential to power the dreams of millions of young people who are looking to a bright future and a world of new opportunities.

“Everyone will be made to feel extremely welcome. Our country is moving forward. Much has been achieved already and many historic steps taken by women in all sectors in recent years, with sport driving much of the progress across our entire society. So, we have real momentum and hosting the world’s best tennis players in Riyadh will only accelerate our transformation and help grow the game further.”

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