Jessica Pegula shares how WTA players really feel about Saudi Arabia, merger with ATP

Pegula addresses one of the biggest topics in tennis.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Jessica Pegula shares how WTA players really feel about Saudi Arabia, merger with ATP
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

World No. 5 Jessica Pegula reveals WTA players have been doing their due diligence on the situation in Saudi Arabia and indicates that players are open to coming there after receiving pretty positive feedback so far. 

Since late 2023, it has been becoming increasingly likely that it's just a matter of time before the ATP and WTA strike a major deal with the Saudis. 

When it comes to the WTA only, Saudi Arabia was rumored as the big favorite to land the 2023 WTA Finals. In the end, the WTA picked Mexico, but reports later revealed that it happened only because they wanted to have more time to get the organization in Saudi Arabia right. 

The location for the 2024 WTA Finals hasn't been announced yet but some reports indicate that Saudi Arabia getting the prestigious season-ending tournament on a multiyear deal is pretty much sealed. 

“To have it be a women’s-only event where we feel like we get treated better almost than any other event is pretty cool for us," Pegula told Front Office Sports.

Over the last couple of months, pretty much all top players have indicated that they would be open to playing in Saudi Arabia. However, some like Pegula noted that if they had to go to Saudi Arabia, they would want to be a positive influence and see the country making progress. 

"We’ve definitely spent a lot of time talking to women in Saudi Arabia," Pegula revealed.

"We have [No. 6–ranked Tunisian player] Ons Jabeur, who is also from the Middle East and a couple other girls. We’ve really taken the time to speak to them, and try to understand that and be like, 'Are we making the right decision? Are we going to be helping women and women’s sports in those countries?' And so far the feedback we’ve gotten has been, 'Yes, it’s changing.'"

Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula © Getty Images Sport - Elsa
 

Pegula on the ATP-WTA merger

As tennis getting involved with Saudi Arabia in a major way seems to be inevitable, there also appear to be strong chances of the ATP and finally merging. In early March, The Telegraph reported that the Saudis offered the ATP and WTA a $2 billion deal that would see the two Tours merge and become a part of the new Saudi owner "PIF Tour." But in this model, currently Grand Slams would not be a part of it. 

On the other side, there is also the Premium Tour, which is driven by four Grand Slams. When it comes to the Premium Tour, there would be 16 tournaments during a calendar year, featuring only top ATP and WTA stars.

Under the both Premium Tour and PIF Tour, men and women would be paid equally across all tournaments.

Addressing a possible merger between the ATP and WTA, 30-year-old Pegula says she believes that would be a positive thing for tennis and also reveals other players seem to be open to the idea too. 

"It seems like everyone is pretty open to it. I feel like I would be open to it. I feel like it would make sense that it would be bigger and maybe better," Pegula said.

"It’s so hard with tennis because everything is so fractionalized and everything’s its own: There are the Grand Slams, and the ATP, and the WTA, and the ITFs, and every tournament is kind of run individually. So, it makes it really hard to grow the sport when everyone is in their own self-interest."

Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula © Getty Images Sport - Elsa
 

Pegula, Coco Gauff want to make a change in Saudi Arabia

After getting into some other sports, Saudi Arabia isn't hiding that it is now trying to also get into tennis. But as it was the case with some other sports, there has been some resistance to allowing Saudi Arabia to get into tennis, with those citing concerns about human rights records in the Kingdom. 

But as mentioned above, the top players appear to at least give a chance to Saudi Arabia. 

Gauff, the 2023 US Open champion and the current top-ranked American female tennis player, has similar views to Pegula's as the 20-year-old would also want to see progress and change in Saudi Arabia if tennis went there. 

"I feel like if we go there, I feel like we have the opportunity to make change. Hopefully, you know, the situation there isn't great. Definitely don't support the situation there, but I hope that if we do decide to go there, I hope that we're able to make change there and improve the quality there and engage in the local communities and make a difference," Gauff said at this year's Australian Open. 

Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff
Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff © Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman
 

Pegula and Gauff could potentially experience playing in Saudi Arabia as soon as this year if the Kingdom gets the expected right to stage the WTA Finals.

Jessica Pegula
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