Carlos Alcaraz shuts down criticism surrounding Rafael Nadal's deal with Saudis

Alcaraz asked how he feels about Nadal receiving criticism for accepting a role with the Saudi Tennis Federation.

by Dzevad Mesic
Carlos Alcaraz shuts down criticism surrounding Rafael Nadal's deal with Saudis
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Carlos Alcaraz believes there is "nothing too bad" in Rafael Nadal agreeing to become an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation as the 20-year-old Spaniard thinks the 22-time Grand Slam champion is perfect for promoting tennis in a country that's not familiar that much with the game. 

At the start of the Australian Open, Nadal's partnership with the Saudis was announced. As soon as the news was announced, Nadal started receiving criticism and backlash for accepting to collaborate with the Saudis. Also, some were very openly expressing their disappointment at Nadal over "accepting money and ignoring Saudi Arabia's human rights record."

Alcaraz, who grew up idolizing Nadal and is currently the top-ranked Spanish male tennis player, was asked if he has heard about the criticism coming Nadal's way and how he feels about the entire situation. 

"I haven't heard much criticism, I have heard people say that they have criticized him," Alcaraz told MARCA

"Rafa has decided to sign as an ambassador and it doesn't seem bad to me. He has signed as an ambassador of tennis in a country that is developing and opening up to the world of sport. Who better than Rafa to promote tennis in places where perhaps it was never played before."

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal
Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Alcaraz on his views on tennis in Saudi Arabia

After staging a few exhibitions in Riyadh that featured several top players, Saudi Arabia officially hosted its first ATP tournament in late 2023 when the Next Gen ATP Finals took place in Jeddah. The current deal sees the Next Gen ATP Finals taking place in Jeddah through 2027. 

Last year, Saudi Arabia was rumored as the favorite to host the WTA Finals. In the end, nothing happened but there are new strong rumors indicating that the WTA and Saudi Arabia will ink a multiyear deal that would see the WTA Finals taking place in the Kingdom for the next couple of years. 

Also, some reports have been claiming that Saudi Arabia will be looking to host some Masters and WTA 1000 tournaments. 

When asked about Saudi Arabia entering tennis, Alcaraz acknowledged the Saudis are already involved with some other sports and suggested that a deal with them could help tennis.

"It is good for tennis that there are more venues, that there are more and more countries where we can play. Saudi Arabia is evolving very quickly in every sense, as a country and in the world of sport. They are betting on football, boxing, now a lot of tennis. I don't know how far they will go in the world of tennis," Alcaraz said.

Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

What did Nadal say after agreeing to a deal with the Saudis?

Nadal, one of the greatest and most popular players in tennis history, has been a major tennis ambassador over the last two decades. When Nadal's deal with the Saudis was announced, the 22-time Grand Slam champion said Saudi Arabia was making "growth and progress" and suggested that he accepted to partner up with them because he believed he could help tennis grow in that area and inspire a new generation of Arab tennis players. 

"Growth and progress that’s important to see and the STF is working on that. In a recent visit I saw the interest in both aspects and I want to be part of that role of growing the sport of tennis around the world. The kids are looking to the future and I saw they are passionate about sports… I want to encourage them to pick up a racket and enjoy the benefits of a healthy living," Nadal wrote on X when announcing the news on January 15th.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Bradley Kanaris

Since the news of Nadal accepting a deal with Saudi Arabia was announced right at the start of the Australian Open, several players were asked about it at Melbourne Park. 

One of those asked was 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. Answering the question, Wozniacki pretty much said out loud what many think - Saudi Arabia is offering lots of money and the Saudis entering tennis is "inevitable."

"Honestly, I haven't read much up on Rafa and what he's doing, but obviously Saudi is coming into sports in a very strong way. I think both in golf and football or soccer and now in tennis," Wozniacki said.

"I think it's inevitable that that's going to happen, and I think when that does happen, I think we have a chance to make a change and do something good there."

For now, the Saudis only have the Next Gen ATP Finals that is locked through 2027. Due to reports that have been circulating over the last couple of months, securing the WTA Finals is probably their next big goal.

It remains to be seen how much Nadal's presence can help the Saudis and if there will be more tournaments coming to Saudi Arabia this year.

Carlos Alcaraz Rafael Nadal