Andy Murray claims a South American ATP Master 1000, but future in Saudi Arabia

For better or worse, the future of tennis will be increasingly shaped by Saudi financial power, which will 'threaten' to eclipse other tennis events

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Andy Murray claims a South American ATP Master 1000, but future in Saudi Arabia
© Morgan Hancock / Stringer Getty Images Sport

The advent of Saudi Arabia in tennis has meant that the polarization of the world's strongest tennis players is focused towards the Saudi country, risking some events in other countries being excluded.

In South America, for example, there are many events, but the continent does not have its ATP Master 1000: an event that will most likely go to Saudi Arabia in the coming months. The swing on South American clay-courts has 4 tournaments: two ATP 250 in Argentina (Cordoba and Buenos Aires), the ATP 250 in Santiago de Chile and the ATP 500 in Rio De Janiero. Not much, for a continent that has always produced high-level players and who always ensure warmth and crowds.

The idea proposed by some users was to bring forward the Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami to February and install the tour in South America at the beginning of March, possibly with a 1000 category tournament. However, the opening of a Saudi tournament seems to close the road to this decision.

The British Andy Murray expressed himself on the issue through a Twitter post, which opened a debate among fans. "Unpopular Opinion. South America should have their own dedicated swing tennis tour with their own Masters series. The way the fans support the tournaments is incredible. Incredible atmospheres and clearly part of their sporting culture. Let's go @atptour!"

His message was supported by Boris Becker and Diego Scwartzman among others, as well as many other tennis insiders. The difficulties in attracting the top players of the South American Tour are dictated by the inconvenient calendar provided by the ATP. The four South American tournaments are scheduled for February, between the Australian Open and the two American ATP Master 1000s in Indian Wells and Miami.

For most athletes it therefore becomes counterproductive to move from hard court to clay before two other commitments on the hard courts, thus deciding to take part in the preparatory events for the US tournaments.

Among the top players (and former player - ed.), only David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz have graced the South American courts, receiving great affection from the crowd.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray© Morgan Hancock / Stringer Getty Images Sport

Andy Murray was echoed by Boris Becker, who in response to the former ATP No.1's post stated that tennis should go to the countries/continents where the game is booming, and Diego Schwartzman, who commented: "Every year we receive less support. Not only for the support of the fans at the tournaments. Also for the players that we have, and that we had at the top. We deserve more from the ATP."

It is clear that the future of tennis is at an important crossroads. There will be the most important tournaments, such as the Slams and the ATP Masters 1000, in which the best tennis players on the planet will participate.

The millionaire performances (and the next future tournaments) that will be played in Saudi Arabia will polarize the strongest tennis players in the world, who will inevitably be attracted by the millionaire prize money made available by the Saudi country.

Too strong a temptation, which will put the survival of many ATP 250 tournaments (obviously the most at risk) and ATP 500 at risk. The future of tournaments in South America does not seem very positive.

Speaking clearly, the situation could remain unchanged for now or could even worsen, if in the month of February Saudi Arabia decides in the future to include other exhibitions that will offer prizes to millionaires.

And Rafael Nadal speaks out about his partnership with Saudi Arabia

The topic of sportwashing has now become increasingly recurrent. A theme that focuses on the Saudi world's desire to clean up its image by organizing important sporting events.

"It's just the latest chapter in Saudi Arabia's relentless sportswashing operation. Rafael Nadal would rather speak out about human rights. From tennis to soccer, from golf to boxing, Saudi authorities have spent billions in their efforts to reclassify the country as a sporting superpower and divert attention from an appalling human rights record," said Amnesty International economic affairs director Peter Frankental.

Nadal, on the Spanish program El Objective, responded to Frankental's criticisms.

"I don't think Saudi Arabia needs me to clean up any image. It is a country that has opened up to the world and has great potential. It's logical that the world goes there and the feeling is that everything can be bought with money and that now even Rafa has sold himself to money. I understand that people think that way. Are there things that need to be improved? No doubt.

It is a country that is very behind in many things, it has only recently opened up. If Saudi does not evolve as I believe it will in the next 10-15 years, I will tell you that I was completely wrong. I believe I will have the freedom to be able to work with the values I believe in. If that doesn't happen, I will say I made a mistake and I was wrong," explained the Spanish tennis legend.

Andy Murray