Reports that Saudi Arabia’s Private Investment Fund is set to make their next move into the world of tennis were met with elation by Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios online after ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi confirmed “positive” talks had taken place for ATP tournaments held in Saudi Arabia in the future…
From substantial (and secret) investments into English football giants to huge sums pouring into cricket’s ICC, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has undoubtedly been a chief disruptor in the world of sport in recent years.
And now, with reports that “positive” talks are ongoing between PIF and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), tennis’ biggest names are left divided, eagerly anticipating an imminent Saudi bid for a piece of the action.
One such player, who is never far from the headlines, is Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who responded to the news of a potential tournament held in Saudi Arabia with untethered excitement, tweeting earlier: “Finally. They see the value. We are going to get paid what we deserve to get paid. Sign me up.”
The PIF and Saudi ‘sportswashing’
The PIF is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and is reportedly sitting on a mouthwatering £514bn ($974bn AUD). While more than 60% of the fund’s activities are within Saudi Arabia, the fund has attracted significant international attention (and criticism) in recent years thanks to its high-profile investments in a number of world sports.
While the PIF has its fingers in a number of sports, including Formula 1 – it owns part of Aston Martin, used to own a stake in McLaren and even tried to purchase the commercial rights to F1 from current owners, Liberty Media, for over $20 billion USD (~$29.8 billion AUD) – its football and golf investments are most prominent.
PIF took a majority share of Newcastle United in 2021, invested billions into Chelsea’s new owners’ capital fund and funded the launch of the new LIV Golf Tour, with many athletes being rewarded with lucrative long-term contracts that eclipse anything offered by its European counterparts.
For example, it is reported that football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo joined one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest football clubs, Al-Nassr (which is owned by the PIF) in a record-breaking deal worth €200 million a year (~$315 million AUD), and his arrival has been a catalyst for more and more footballers making the switch to Saudi Pro League in search of a huge payout.
ATP tournaments held in Saudi Arabia with big cash prizes on offer would naturally be exceptionally tantalising for the world’s top tennis players. The ATP agrees:
“Ultimately, you want to see the top players playing in the best events in the world.”Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman
Kyrgios is certainly not alone in considering the impact of future tennis tournaments being held in the Arabian Gulf, with World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, admitting he has no problem competing in an ATP tournament based in Saudi Arabia in the future.
Alcaraz said: “I think they have the power to have a lot of tournaments. I have never played an official tournament over there, and let’s see how it is going to be in the future. But, well, I have no doubts that I will play over there in the future.”
Time will tell if tennis will join football, golf and F1 as yet another sport awash in Saudi money… But we know that Nick Kyrgios, at least, will be one man who’s not afraid to play in the Saudi sandpit.