Saudi Princess Reema rips Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova: 'Get your facts straight'

Princess Reema responds to Evert and Navratilova opposing the WTA Finals going to Saudi Arabia.

by Dzevad Mesic
Saudi Princess Reema rips Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova: 'Get your facts straight'
© Getty Images Entertainment - Brad Barket

Saudi ambassador Princess Rema Bandar Al Saud has issued a strong response to Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's criticism regarding the possibility of the WTA Finals going to Saudi Arabia, slamming the tennis legends for using "an outdated stereotype" and telling them to "get your facts straight."

Although there were strong rumors indicating that the 2023 WTA Finals would take place in Saudi Arabia, nothing happened in the end. However, the talks between Saudi Arabia and the WTA have continued in 2024 as the two sides appear to be on the verge of agreeing on a multiyear deal to bring the WTA Finals to the Kingdom. 

As the talks of the WTA Finals going to Saudi Arabia are intensifying, the criticism from those opposing tennis going to the Kingdom also became louder. One of those who oppose the WTA Finals going to Saudi Arabia are Evert and Navratilova, who called that potential move something that would mark "a significant regression" for women's tennis. 

Princess Reema, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, wasn't impressed at all by the views and remarks that were presented by Evert and Navratilova in their column.

"As a woman who has dedicated her life to the cause of women, it pained me deeply to read a column in The Washington Post objecting to Saudi Arabia hosting the Women's Tennis Association Finals based on arguments that are outdated stereotypes and western-centric views of our culture," Princess Reema said in a statement posted.

"Failing to acknowledge the great progress women have made in Saudi Arabia denigrates our remarkable journey. Like many women around the world, we looked to the legends of tennis as trailblazers and role models ... glimmers of hope that women truly could achieve it all. But these champions have turned their back on the very same women they have inspired and it's beyond disappointing."

Princess Reema
Princess Reema© Getty Images Entertainment - Brad Barket

Princess Reema to Evert, Navratilova: Get your facts straight

While explaining why they believe women's tennis should never go to Saudi Arabia, Evert and Navratilova wrote that Saudi women "are not seen as equal, it is a country where the current landscape includes a male guardianship law that essentially makes women the property of men."

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert© Getty Images Entertainment - Matthew Stockman

Addressing Evert and Navratilova's claim that women in Saudi Arabia still need the approval of a man to travel or work, Princess Reema rebuffed that statement by presenting stats that show how the position of a Saudi woman has improved significantly over the last couple of years. While making her point, Princess Reema noted that Saudi women now own and start businesses. 

"On this, let me simply say: get your facts straight. What is often referred to as 'guardianship' no longer describes the status of Saudi women today," Princess Reema said.

"Women do not need the approval of a guardian to travel, work, or be the head of their household. Today, Saudi women own more than 300,000 businesses and roughly 25 percent of small and mid-sized start-up companies, which is about the same percentage as the United States. Women in Saudi now enjoy equal pay, leading the way towards something that should be universal.

"While there's still work to be done, the recent progress for women, the engagement of women in the workplace, and the social and cultural opportunities being created for women are truly profound and should not be overlooked."

Princess Reema
Princess Reema© Getty Images Entertainment - Brad Barket

Princess Reema: Tennis is a sport actively played by female population in Saudi Arabia

While some are opposing women's tennis going to Saudi Arabia, some think going there could actually help and present an opportunity to make a positive impact in the Kingdom. When responding to Evert and Navratilova's comments, Princess Rema claimed that Saudi Arabia now has over 300k registered female athletes, of whom 14k are playing tennis. 

"Today we not only have women's sports leagues and federations, we also have more than 330,000 registered female athletes, with 14,000 actively playing tennis. We have thousands of women coaches, mentors, referees, and sport doctors. Women participate across sports in local, regional, and international competitions – and win," Princess Reema acknowledged.

"Yet it is at this time when we hear voices from overseas – even from those we honor and would welcome women-to-women conversations with – write us all off as victims and the voiceless, whose desires should be relegated to trendy political arguments in favor of exclusion. This not only undermines the progress of women in sport, it sadly undermines women's progress as a whole."

Princess Reema
Princess Reema© Getty Images Entertainment - Brad Barket

Princess Rema invites Evert, Navratilova for a conversation

After making a point about the growth of female sports in Saudi Arabia, Princess Reema suggested that it would be discrimination to "deny" Saudi women of opportunities that others can enjoy. Also, Princess Reema invited Evert and Navratilova, as well as anyone else who shares their views about Saudi Arabia, to sit at her table and have a conversation. 

"To those who seek to deny our women the same opportunities that others enjoy, I say that what I hear loudly and clearly is that there is no seat for me at their table. But I will welcome them at mine. Because my table is not limited by political views, borders, race or geography," Princess Reema said.

"And I hope they accept my invitation to sit at my table and meet the women that they may not have intended to inspire but their hard work nonetheless has. I hear you. You didn't fight for us. But as we work to continue to fulfil our dreams, we will look back at your journey and carry your wins with us."

When world No. 1 Iga Swiatek was asked about the possibility of playing in Saudi Arabia during the Australian Open, she said it was "hard for me to say if it's good or bad." Meanwhile, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka openly stated she would have nothing against going to Saudi Arabia. When Coco Gauff was asked about the matter, she said she "does not support the situation there" but acknowledged it could be a good opportunity to make a positive impact in the Kingdom.

Chris Evert Martina Navratilova Wta Finals