'We Want To Work With Saudi Arabia': ATP Chairman Confirms Tennis Expansion Plans

'We Want To Work With Saudi Arabia': ATP Chairman Confirms Tennis Expansion Plans

by Nurein Ahmed

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi stated that the men's governing body of tennis is exploring different avenues to expand its reach in the Gulf Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This past week, the ATP's flagship tournament for the 21-and-under club was held in Saudi Arabia in a historic moment that could be a precursor of what will come. Serbia's Hamad Medjedovic won the event, beating French teenager Arthur Fils in the final.

Saudi Arabia's first major investment in international tennis was a success, according to Gaudenzi, who spoke to The National while in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country to watch the championship match in person at the King Abdullah Sports City's indoor arena.

"I think I've heard very, very good feedback, both from the players and from my team, in terms of execution, the infrastructure here is impressive. The amount of work, investment and passion into the details has been amazing. I also looked at it on TV and it looked very nice. So yeah, I’m very, very, very pleased."

The success of the Next Gen ATP Finals staging is just the first step, with Saudi Arabia increasing its interest in staging even bigger tournaments in years to come. It has been reported that a 10th Masters 1000 tournament will be held there by 2025.

Gaudenzi did not give exact details of the overall plan but confirmed that "very interesting" talks have been formally held between the ATP and the Saudis for a few years. Since tennis is a global sport, expanding to untapped markets presents an area of great interest.

"We are exploring a number of different opportunities with Saudi Arabia. And we are here obviously, so we want to work with Saudi. I think we had very good relations the last couple of years, very interesting discussions."

The aforementioned additional Masters tournament is probably in the works, but the biggest drawback so far is a workaround on the tennis calendar, as Gaudenzi explained. He understands that Saudi Arabia's willingness is true and veritable but opined that tennis's reach will be gradual.

"They have expressed the willingness and the desire to do more in sport and in tennis. I think the biggest challenge on our side is the calendar. In all honesty, it's very tight, it's very jammed."

"But the desire for us to actually be here and be in the region, because we value the Middle East a lot, is there. I think we're going to have to work it out together in phases or we're looking at all opportunities. We don't have the solutions at the moment, but we're definitely going to keep discussing with all the parties."

Recently, there had been reports of a breakaway tour being championed by the four Grand Slam tournaments, which would take away the ATP's controlling interest in Masters tournaments. Gaudenzi refuted those claims. Instead, he called for a union between tennis' governing bodies.

Moreover, the Italian opined that the ATP is open to working with the WTA to form a combined Next Gen tournament that would unite the best young players from both tours but accepts that the idea is "beyond" his control.

"We did already try to push it forward. I definitely would like the idea to have Next Gen being combined and to see the top eight (21-and-under) men and women together, I really liked that concept a lot. And hopefully it can come to reality ... Obviously, this is beyond my control."


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