Carlos Alcaraz expects to play events in Saudi Arabia after talks between ATP Tour and PIF

ATP Tour chair Andrea Gaudenzi said 'positive' discussions were held, which could see the Public Investment Fund partner with men's tennis in various projects and ventures

World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz said he expects Saudi Arabia to soon host professional tennis tournaments. EPA
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World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz said he has "no doubts" that Saudi Arabia will soon host professional tennis tournaments, his comments coming days after talks were held between the ATP and the country's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

ATP chair Andrea Gaudenzi revealed on Saturday that he had "positive" discussions with the PIF over potential investment into various projects and ventures involving men's professional tennis.

The meetings took place weeks after the PIF announced a shock partnership with the PGA Tour, which will see the formation of a new for-profit entity and bring an end to the fractures and hostilities in professional golf.

While specific details from the meeting have not been made public, the Financial Times reported that the ATP Tour are seeking investment for infrastructure, technology, and events in new markets.

Should the PIF partner with the ATP Tour, it would become its latest significant investment into professional sport. In addition to the launch of the LIV Golf Series and more recently the partnership with the PGA Tour, the PIF holds a majority stake in Premier League club Newcastle United, has a long-term deal with Formula One, and increased its stake in the Saudi Pro League's four biggest clubs, which has helped finance the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, with other high-profile players expected to follow.

“I think they have the power to have a lot of tournaments,” Alcaraz, 20, said after winning the Queen's title in London on Sunday. “I have never played an official tournament over there, and let’s see how it is going to be in the future. But I have no doubts that I will play over there in the future.”

Saudi Arabia has already hosted exhibition events in the kingdom, with the launch of the Diriyah Cup in 2019, which has welcomed players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, and Stan Wawrinka. The event returned in 2022 after a two-year break due to the pandemic.

Saudi is yet to stage an official ATP Tour event, although that could be about to change following Gaudenzi's meeting with the PIF.

Speaking to the Financial Times, the Italian said that while talks were positive, he stressed to external investors of the need to “stick to respecting the history of the sport and the product, working with the current stakeholder rather than against. You have to preserve something which is almost sacred, the rules of the game."

Wary of the fractures in professional golf caused by the launch of the LIV series, Gaudenzi said partnering with instead of working against external investors will benefit men's tennis and prevent any repeat of the issues golf has faced over the past 12 months.

“If you’re a golf fan you want to see the top players playing against each other,” Gaudenzi said. “You want one ranking and you want one simple story.

“There’s many ways to become an investor of the ecosystem. It’s not only about creating a new tour or buying a tournament,” he added. “Ultimately, you want to see the top players playing in the best events in the world. The more you fragment and divide, the more you create confusion.”

The region already plays a significant role within professional tennis. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships debuted in 1993 – the WTA Tour event followed in 2001 – and is one of the most popular 500-level events on the circuit, while the Qatar Open tournaments also began in the same years. This year, Abu Dhabi got its own full-time WTA Tour tournament with the launch of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open.

Meanwhile, competitive men's tennis could go to Saudi as early as the end of this season, following reports that the ATP's Next Gen Finals – the end-of-season event for the leading under-21 players – could be held in Jeddah as part of a new five-year deal.

Updated: June 26, 2023, 8:48 AM