Tennis: Saudi Arabian PIF to sponsor ATP rankings, advertise at tournaments

Spaniard Rafael Nadal was named an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation in January. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
Spaniard Rafael Nadal was named an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation in January. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and the ATP, the premier men's tennis tour, agreed to a five-year sponsorship for tournament branding and the naming rights of the world rankings, the parties announced Wednesday.

The PIF will partner with the ATP Tour for branding at its events in Indian Wells, Calif., Miami, Madrid, Beijing, at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, and the Next Gen ATP Finals (a 21-and-under event), which will be held in Jeddah until 2027.


"Our strategic partnership with PIF marks a major moment for tennis," ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli said in a news release. "It's a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport.

"With PIF's dedication to the next generation -- fostering innovation and creating opportunities for all -- the stage is set for a transformative new period of progress."

The ATP's partnership with the PIF came after tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, urging the WTA -- the premier women's tennis tour -- to stay out of Saudi Arabia amid its business negotiations with the kingdom.


It also follows the multi-year feud between Saudi-financed LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, which included several legal battles, before the parties agreed to merge forces to form another league.

Saudi Arabia also invested heavily into other sports, including soccer, recruiting top players Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Karim Benzema and others to play in its Pro League. Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe were among the top players to turn down lucrative offers to leave their European teams for spots in the Saudi Pro League.

Those in opposition of Saudi Arabia's injection into major, U.S.-based sports leagues have cited the kingdom's human rights record, history of women's inequality and its connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Taking a tournament there would represent a significant step backward, to the detriment not just of women's sport, but women," Evert and Navratilova wrote.

The Middle Eastern country experienced some social reform in recent years, granting women the right to drive and changing other laws that controlled women, but they are still required to dress modestly and restricted by other mandates. The kingdom also still criminalizes same-sex relations, with punishments including imprisonment, death and flogging.


"As PIF expands its portfolio of innovative sponsorships, our commitment to 'Invested in Better' remains unwavering," PIF spokesman Mohamed AlSayyad said. "Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for growth of the global tennis landscape, developing talent, fostering inclusivity and driving sustainable innovation.

"This strategic partnership aligns with our broader vision to enhance quality of life and drive transformation in sport both within Saudi and across the world.''

Saudi Arabia reported that registered tennis players in the country increased by 46% from 2019 and 2023. The kingdom first hosted the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2023.

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