Saudi Arabia’s drive to become more involved in professional sports around the world is set to go up another gear with the country now reaching out to the Women’s Tennis Association about a potential collaboration. The Saudis have, in the past, tried to do a deal with the men’s ATP Tour but have not been granted an audience which suggests that they may have given up, and this latest move is now a change of tack.
This could spell trouble for the alignment of the two tours going forward as any split between the ATP and WTA organizations could see a loss of world ranking points awarded. After all, we’ve already witnessed this happen in the world of professional golf following the introduction of the LIV Golf League. Essentially, this means that players may not be allowed to compete in Grand Slams going forward should they join a rebel league, and concerningly, it may be the last time we see, for instance, the Wimbledon 2022 betting odds with the world’s biggest names on it.
Indeed, right now we can look at this list and see Ons Jabeur priced at 10/1 to win at the iconic All England Club, but will this be the case in the future if a breakaway tour develops?
— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) June 18, 2022
If the goings-on over at the PGA Tour are anything to go by then the answer would have to be no with a host of the world’s biggest names recently joining the Saudi-backed golf league. Indeed, the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and recently Brooks Koepka have all joined the new enterprise and subsequently been suspended from playing on the PGA Tour. Furthermore, these players won’t be able to earn world ranking points on the LIV series, which means that while they haven’t been specifically banned from competing in majors, they won’t have the means to qualify to play in them.
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— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) June 22, 2022
This is where we can draw parallels with the Saudis launching a new women’s tennis league, which would inevitably cause a standoff with the home tours that have historically been the tours players lean on.
It’s important to stress that for now, the Saudis are only looking to host a WTA event in the country as they have done with Formula One and boxing, but at the same time, it’s equally prudent to remember that this is how the country was able to get a foot in the door to the golfing world by hosting the Saudi International earlier this year. During the staging of this event in February, players like Dustin Johnson were offered in the region of £2 million as an appearance fee. At the time, it seemed excessive while not unheard of with golf’s appearance fees typically eye-watering when trying to lure players to compete in obscure events, but four months down the line from the Saudi International and Johnson has accepted a cheque of £100 million to turn his back on the PGA Tour and take up full residence on the LIV Golf League.
Perhaps the point here is that these so-called one-off events are in fact often precursors to seismic change within the sporting world, and tennis is now the next target for an organization that has been successfully able to turn the global status quo of an age-old competition on its head.