Speculation on Saudi Arabia's involvement in women's tennis has changed from possible to expected, with reputable sources now resigned to an announcement at any time.
The Gulf kingdom has continued to stamp its authority on tennis, unveiling the ambassador of the Saudi Tennis Federation - none other than 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal. Even with his unmatched popularity and charisma, Nadal's announcement drew plenty of negative reactions.
It's no secret that Saud Arabia's ties with the ATP have gone from strength to strength in the past 18 months. ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has been at the forefront of negotiations, welcoming talks of expanding tennis' reach to newer markets and benefitting all stakeholders.
Saudi Arabia is emerging as the global hub of sports and entertainment due to its extravagant spending in hosting sporting events in the country, backed by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the PIF (Public Investment Fund). It has already succeeded in sports such as football and golf.
Adding that portfolio by investing in tennis has proven complicated and requires a structured process. By 2025, however, the full picture should come to light.
The prospect of hosting a Masters 1000 in January next year is in the works, and talks of bringing the Billie Jean King Cup Finals - women's premier team competition to the Middle East have commenced, as reported by the Daily Mail.
But in an intriguing twist, the oil-rich gulf nation is reported to have agreed to host this year's WTA Finals, the crown jewel of women's tennis tournament, held annually at the end of the season where only the eight best players have a seat at the table.
Tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova have penned a letter to the WTA board members in a last-ditch attempt to intercept the WTA Finals being staged in Riyadh. That letter has since been obtained by Sports Illustrated (SI).
"Taking the WTA finals to Saudi Arabia would represent taking a significant step backwards, to the detriment of the WTA, women’s sports and women. We ask the WTA to give thought to all these considerations."
Saudi Arabia famously held its first-ever ATP-sanctioned tennis tournament at the end of last year, the Next Gen ATP Finals. However, receiving hosting rights for the 2024 WTA Finals would be a significant coup in its divestment and a real statement of intent.
Additionally, tennis players have mixed feelings about women's tennis potentially being held there. Jessica Pegula has been a strong critic. But Tunisia's Ons Jabeur and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka have publicly pledged their support.