Saudi Arabia invests heavily in tennis with a big deal with ATP

Tennis is about to change: the entry of Saudi Arabia and its economic power is destined to overturn the structure of tennis as we know it

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Saudi Arabia invests heavily in tennis with a big deal with ATP
© Handout / Handout Getty Images Sport

“PIF will sponsor tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and the Nitto ATP Finals, as well as the Next Gen ATP Finals, hosted in Jeddah until 2027.”
In a joint statement, ATP and PIF, the Arab Investment Fund, announced a multi-year partnership.

PIF becomes the official naming partner of the ATP ranking and at the end of the year, in Turin, the number 1 in the world ranking will be awarded as Year-End Number 1, presented by PIF. ATP and PIF, we also read in the press release, will collaborate for the long-term future of tennis. The PIF will do this by actively contributing to ATP's OneVision strategic plan, which focuses on driving improved fan experiences.

Saudi Arabia is also entering tennis more and more decisively. After the ATP Next Gen in Jeddah, the rich Six Kings Slam exhibition in October in Riyadh which will see Djokovic, Alcaraz, Medvedev, Nadal, Rune and Sinner on the field, the ATP has therefore officially announced a multi-year strategic partnership with the Public Investment Fund .

Massimo Calvelli from ATP explained: "Shared commitment to the future of the sport. Our strategic partnership with PIF marks an important moment for tennis. It is a shared commitment to promote 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 new period of progress and transformation."

Mohamed AlSayyad, Head of Corporate Brand at PIF, said: “This strategic partnership aligns with our broader vision of improving quality of life and driving the transformation of sport both in Saudi Arabia and around the world. Tennis is fast becoming a key sport in Saudi Arabia. Between 2019 and 2023, players increased by 46%. The PIF will leverage the ATP's expertise to develop further opportunities for young Saudis in tennis."

ATP and PIF© Handout / Handout Getty Images Sport

What is PIF and the words of the champions on Saudi entry into tennis

The Public Investment Fund is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, with estimated total assets of more than $776 billion. It was founded in 1971 for the purpose of investing on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia. After initially pursuing a prudent investment policy and primarily providing loans for national development projects, it has since become a global investor.

The government is planning Saudi Vision 2030 as part of its development plan to transform the Public Investment Fund into the world's largest sovereign wealth fund. The fund is headquartered in Riyadh. The current president is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.

Rafael Nadal, Saudi Arabia's new global tennis ambassador, interviewed by El Objective, explained: "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, of course they do. 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."

Tennis in Saudi Arabia
Tennis in Saudi Arabia© Alexander Scheuber / Stringer Getty Images Sport

In a recent interview given to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Roger Federer also talked, together with his agent Tony Godsick, about the possible innovations of the Laver Cup.

The Swiss agent Maestro said the future of the Laver Cup could be in Saudi Arabia.

"One day the Laver Cup could be in Saudi Arabia. We rotate between European cities and cities around the world. I assume Saudi Arabia will be part of this discussion at some point in the future," Godsick said.

To the agent's words were added those of Federer, who declared: "Sport is a language that everyone speaks. Sport can facilitate dialogue and change. I see myself as captain of the team one day, but I would like to see someone else in this position who belongs to the generation after Rod Laver. Someone in the 50 to 65 age group. These guys deserve it first, before my turn comes."

Last year, during the Wimbledon media day, Novak Djokovic also expressed some interesting considerations regarding Saudi Arabia's investments in tennis.

"I think the president of the ATP and the WTA will answer these questions better than me, in terms of what the best move for our tennis might be strategically. Personally, I think it was only a matter of time before they started some sort of negotiations or conversations, trying to break into tennis. They've done this with almost every other sport in the world, except maybe basketball.

Let's see what is happening in football in recent years, stars move there for huge sums of money. We know that there is Formula 1 and other disciplines such as golf for example. We can probably learn a lot from them, take the positives and correct the negatives, trying to structure an agreement that still protects the integrity, the tradition and the history of the game," Nole explained.