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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Via AP news wire

Saudi Arabia is going to sponsor the WTA women's tennis rankings under a new partnership

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saudi Arabia's move into tennis will now include a multiyear deal to sponsor the WTA women's rankings.

The WTA released word of its partnership agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) on Monday, a move that follows last month's news that the kingdom will host the tour's season-ending championships in Riyadh starting this year and February's announcement that it will sponsor the ATP men's rankings.

Both tours' rankings deals are for five years.

The PIF is the first naming-rights partner for the WTA rankings and the new arrangement also includes plans to promote tennis at lower levels of the sport.

Tennis has been consumed lately by the debate over whether the sport should follow golf and others in making deals with Saudi Arabia, where rights groups say women continue to face discrimination in most aspects of family life and homosexuality is a major taboo, as it is in much of the rest of the Middle East.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are among those who urged the WTA to stay out of Saudi Arabia, while another former star player and Hall of Famer, equal rights pioneer Billie Jean King, advocated for engagement.

The WTA Finals will be in Saudi Arabia as part of a three-year deal that will increase the prize money for this November’s season-ending championship to a record $15.25 million, a 70% increase from 2023.

Saudi Arabia’s Private Investment Fund formed the LIV Golf tour and put money into soccer, for example, and the kingdom’s role in tennis has been rising. The ATP Tour moved its Next Gen Finals for leading 21-and-under players to Jedda in November; 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal recently became an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation; he will join 24-time major champion Novak Djokovic and rising stars Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at an exhibition event in Riyadh in October.

There have been discussions about placing a top-tier Masters 1000 tournament in Saudi Arabia, too, part of a possible larger restructuring involving the WTA, ATP and the country.

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