WTA Finals to be staged in Saudi Arabia with record prize money despite months of backlash | Tennis | Sport

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WTA Finals to be staged in Saudi Arabia with record prize money despite months of backlash | Tennis | Sport

The WTA has officially confirmed that its season-ending championships will be staged in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the next three years. It will offer a record prize money pot of £12million ($15.25million). The announcement follows months of speculation that the WTA Finals would be heading to the nation, which sparked backlash from the likes of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

The WTA Finals has not had a set host city since its deal with China fell apart following the Covid pandemic and the concerns over Peng Shuai’s whereabouts. For the last three years, the women’s tour has had to scramble to find a last-minute venue.

But the WTA has now confirmed that Saudi Arabia will stage the top-eight tournament from 2024-2026 in the capital of Riyadh after reaching an agreement with the Saudi Tennis Federation. It will be the first women’s tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia after the ATP moved its Next Gen Finals to Jeddah on a five-year deal.

The 2024 edition of the year-end championships will take place from November 2 to 9, with a record prize money pot of £12m ($15.25m) on offer. There will be further increases in 2025 and 2026. Previously, the 2023 ATP Finals in Turin boasted a record total prize fund of £11.85m ($15m).

The tour said on Thursday: « The WTA selected Riyadh following a comprehensive evaluation process over several months, which has included assessment of multiple bids from different regions and engagement with players. All prospective hosts were considered against a clear set of criteria: The ability to deliver and fund a world-class event for players and fans; Support for the WTA’s ambition for significant prize money growth; The strength of their commitment to growing the WTA Finals and the sport over time. »

The WTA Finals features the top eight singles players and doubles teams of the season as they battle it out in a round-robin group stage to reach the semi-finals and final. While this will be the first WTA event to take place in Saudi Arabia, two of the tour’s biggest names have already contested an exhibition event in the nation.

Two-time Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka faced world No. 6 Ons Jabeur at the Riyadh Season Tennis Cup in December. Although some players have already shown their support for competing in Saudi Arabia, previous proposals to hold the WTA Finals in Riyadh caused backlash.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova penned a joined letter in the Washington Post, claiming that the proposals to take the WTA Finals to Saudi Arabia were « entirely incompatible with the spirit and purpose of women’s tennis and the WTA itself. »

They added: « Not only is this a country where women are not seen as equal, it is a country where the current landscape includes a male guardianship law that essentially makes women the property of men. A country which criminalises the LGBTQ community to the point of possible death sentences.

« A country whose long-term record on human rights and basic freedoms has been a matter of international concern for decades. We can’t sit back and allow something as significant as awarding a tournament to Saudi Arabia to happen without an open, honest discussion. »

Cet article est apparu en premier en ANGLAIS sur https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/1884878/WTA-Finals-Riyadh-Saudi-Arabia-prize-money-Evert-Navratilova


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