Saudi Arabia are reportedly in talks to host either a Masters 1000 or a combined 1000-level tournament by 2025 in the wake of comments by the President of the Italian Tennis Federation.
In an exclusive interview with Corriere Della Sera, Angelo Binaghi might have purposefully let the cat out of the bag. In light of his country failing to retain the right to host the Next Gen ATP Finals, Binaghi ignited speculation, asserting that Saudi Arabia will host either a Masters 1000 tournament or a combined ATP and WTA 1000-level event by 2025.
Furthermore, he claimed that the tennis season would begin there. Saudi Arabia has never staged a professional tennis tournament before, but that will change in late November after brokering a deal with the ATP to host the Next Gen ATP Finals for the next five seasons.
It is pertinent to note that the ATP has not commented on these claims. However, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has previously held "positive talks" with the PIF (Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund) regarding future investment in the tour.
Saudi Arabia's long-term plan of becoming a global sporting powerhouse should make talks of any deal rather seamless. Right now the workaround for the tennis calendar poses the greatest challenge. But if Binaghi's words are to be believed, it certainly appears to be a matter of when and not if a Masters tournament will be played in the Middle East.
"I'm trying to convince Gaudenzi, president of the ATP, that tennis is not like other sports, Saudi Arabia may be an attractive market but situations that work, like ours, must be protected. You can't be afraid that Saudi Arabia will create a parallel circuit, like in golf."
"And I hope that the Master 1000 that the ATP will give to Arabia in January from 2025, perhaps combined with the WTA, will be enough to satisfy their desire for tennis. The season will start from there. A revolution, of course. But the Finals must stay here."