Martina Navratilova makes radical move, questions players accepting to play in Arabia

Navratilova addresses the WTA Finals officially going to Saudi Arabia.

by Dzevad Mesic
Martina Navratilova makes radical move, questions players accepting to play in Arabia
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Martina Navratilova is questioning why top WTA players decided to agree on taking the WTA Finals to Saudi Arabia and has revealed that she is not planning on returning to the event as an analyst this year.

Navratilova, a former 18-time Grand Slam champion, and another Slam icon Chris Evert spoke out very loudly on the prospect of taking the WTA Finals to Saudi Arabia. But on April 4th, Navratilova and Evert learned that their efforts to change the mind of the WTA weren't successful as that day the WTA officially announced that Riyadh would be hosting the WTA Finals for the next three years. 

For many years, 67-year-old Navratilova has been a regular guest at the WTA Finals. But when asked in Madrid ahead of a Laureus event if she was intending on still returning to the event in Saudi Arabia, Navratilova responded: "I'm not planning on that."

Since Evert's views are pretty much the same, it is pretty much safe to assume that Evert won't be going to Riyadh later this year either.

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

Navratilova questions why players decided to go to Saudi Arabia but accepts their decisions

Before the WTA officially confirmed a deal with the Saudis, the majority of top players indicated that the WTA was communicating with them and that they were ready to play in the Kingdom. If Navratilova was still playing, she would have reacted differently but highlights that she is not playing anymore and therefore accepts the decision made by the players. 

“We’re going to Saudi Arabia which is about as big a change as you can make except for maybe going to North Korea. Chris Evert and I have made our views clear on that," Navratilova said in Madrid.

“We’re not playing so the players made their choice. And I honour that. We both do. I just wanted to make sure they made the decision not in a vacuum, that they knew what they were getting into.

“One of the comments I heard, one of the players said they ‘don’t want to be political’. Going to Saudi is about as political as you can get.

“Welcome to sport. Sport is political. Sport has been at the forefront of social change. I don’t see how anything happens there without the blessing of MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman]. He decides what goes and what doesn’t.”

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova © Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

In the interview, Navratilova also expressed skepticism that the WTA can make a really big difference in Saudi Arabia but also added that only the time will tell how good that move was.

Martina Navratilova Wta Finals