Saudi Arabia prepares to host the next three WTA Finals

RIYADH.- Saudi Arabia will be the headquarters of the WTA Finals as part of a three-year deal the women's tennis tour announced Wednesday that will boost the season-ending tournament's prize pool to a record $15.25 million, an increase 70% compared to 2023.

The competition, which brings together the eight best singles players and the eight best doubles teams of the season, will be staged in Riyadh between 2024 and 2026 and adds to a recent wave of investments by Saudi Arabia in tennis and others, despite the questions about the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community that were raised by legendary tennis players Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and other voices.

“We understand that the investment in sport by the Saudis provokes strong opinions from people,†WTA President and CEO Steve Simon said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have met with Chris and Martina and have addressed their concerns and passed them on to our partners without bias. We have also shared concerns about the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our goal is how to promote women's tennis for the benefit of everyone involved in tennis.”

“The reality is that we are a global tour, a global business. We have players from 90 nations currently. We have 90 tournaments… We are in many countries that have different cultures and different value systems.†.

As for any concerns tour players may have, Simon responded: “We are not contemplating persuading anyone. The players will have to make their own decisions and we believe that all those who qualify will compete.”

WTA evaluated other options:

The WTA considered several locations in Europe, North America and Asia as new venues for a tournament that has been held in five cities in its last five editions, after the agreement to take Shenzhen, China, until 2030 was frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic and the case of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a high-ranking Chinese government official of rape.

The cities hosting the tournament in 2022 (Fort Worth, Texas) and 2023 (Cancún, Mexico) were not announced until September of each year. And the tournament held in the Mexican resort last year received harsh criticism from several players. Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalanka were some of the figures who participated in Cancún.