Saudi Arabia are reportedly plotting to host a WTA Tour event – and that means Emma Raducanu and her tennis adversaries could be heading to the Gulf state to play matches. Saudi Arabia have heavily invested in sport in recent years, with the country’s Public Investment Fund now owning Premier League football club Newcastle United and the new LIV Golf Series. And the country has also hosted F1 Grands Prix for the last two years.
Saudi Arabia appear to be keen to expand their sporting reach by entering the world of tennis. And, according to The Telegraph, the Women’s Tennis Association are unwilling to rule out a link-up.
“We have received inquiries from Saudi Arabia as to interest in bringing a WTA event to the region,” a spokesperson for the WTA told the publication. “As a global organisation, we are always interested and appreciative of inquiries received from anywhere in the world and we look seriously at what each opportunity may bring [but] we have not entered into formal negotiations.”
For the last five years, Saudi Arabia have been trying to secure a deal with the ATP Tour. But they have been repeatedly rebuffed so have decided to change their approach.
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The WTA are said to be facing financial headwinds after their chief executive Steve Simon removed one of their central sources of funding by suspending tournaments in China at the end of the last year following the country’s apparent silencing of Peng Shuai. “With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,” Simon said in a statement last December.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”
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After the China developments, the WTA could now be keen to embark on new ventures to raise valuable funds to support the Tour. So Raducanu could soon be jetting off to Saudi Arabia to take part in a new tournament should the WTA decide to agree a deal with the nation.
The 19-year-old Briton has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence over the last 12 months and won’t last year’s US Open at the age of 18.
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