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Tennis: Saudi Arabia secures multiyear sponsorship deal for WTA Rankings

May 21, 2024 at 4:20 pm

Front row (L-R)Kevin Foster, Head of Corporate Affairs, PIF and Marina Storti, CEO, WTA Ventures, and back row (L to R) Alanoud Althonayan, Head of Sponsorships & Events PIF, Mohamed AlSayyad, Head of Corporate Brand PIF, Sarah M. Swanson, Chief Brand Officer of WTA Ventures and Jessica Walton, Senior Director of PR and Corporate Communications for the WTA, announce a new multi-year partnership between WTA and PIF to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game on May 20, 2024 in New York City [Elsa/Getty Images for PIF]

Saudi Arabia has cemented its presence in the tennis world with a multiyear deal to sponsor the WTA women’s rankings, as announced by the WTA yesterday. This agreement with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), follows the kingdom hosting the season-ending WTA Finals in Riyadh and sponsoring the ATP men’s rankings.

Part of the agreement will see the PIF becoming the first naming-rights partner for the WTA rankings. The partnership also aims to promote tennis at grassroots levels. The prestigious WTA Finals will feature a record $15.25 million in prize money, a 70 per cent increase from 2023.

As with other major sports, tennis has been embroiled in debate over Saudi Arabia’s increasing influence amid accusations of sportswashing, given the kingdom’s human rights record. Tennis personalities have had mixed views, with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova having voiced opposition, urging the WTA to avoid Saudi ties, while Billie Jean King has advocated for engagement.

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Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures was quoted as saying: “We look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.”

Mohamed AlSayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF, added: “We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent.”

The ATP Tour’s Next Gen Finals will be held in Jeddah, and an exhibition event in Riyadh will feature stars like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner. Discussions are also underway about hosting a Masters 1000 tournament in the country, which could be part of a broader restructuring involving both the WTA and ATP tours.