ATP reaches sponsorship agreement with Saudi Arabia

NEW YORK.- The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and the tour of the ATP announced on Wednesday a five-year sponsorship deal that includes the men’s tennis rankings.

This is the kingdom’s most recent involvement in tennis and other sports.

The ATP already had an agreement with the PIF (the fund’s initials in English) for the Next Gen Finals — the tournament for its best U21 players — to be held in Jeddah between 2023 and 2027. The agreement announced on Wednesday includes displaying the logo of PIF in the end-of-season Masters Cup, as well as in the Indian Wells, Miami and Beijing tournaments.

Pepperstone has been the sponsor of the ATP rankings since 2022.

“Our strategic partnership with the PIF marks a key moment in tennis,” said Massimo Calvelli, the executive director of the ATP.

The tour asserted that the agreement will promote tennis in Saudi Arabia.

Tennis has been mired in a debate over whether the sport should follow the lead of golf and others in striking deals with the wealthy kingdom, where human rights groups warn that women continue to be discriminated against in many aspects of family life and Homosexuality is taboo, as in the rest of the Middle East.

The WTA women’s tour is negotiating its own agreement with Saudi Arabia and it is not ruled out that the WTA Finals — its season-ending tournament — could be staged there.

“As part of our plans to grow women’s tennis, we are in contact with existing and potential commercial partners about possible new forms of collaboration. “While we are not ruling anything out for the future, there is nothing new at this time,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are among the voices that have urged the WTA not to agree with Saudi Arabia. Billie Jean King, another legend and pioneer of equality in sports, advocated for an agreement.

Saudi Arabia with Nadal:

In January, Rafael Nadal was introduced as an ambassador for the Saudi Arabian tennis federation. It was also just announced that Nadal, Novak Djokovic and four other men’s tennis stars will participate in an exhibition in Riyadh next October.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to emerge from his international isolation since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. He also wants to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

His critics say that sports investment is “sportswashing”, washing with sport the image damaged by its human rights record.