Monday, April 15, 2024
HometennisWTA says no decision yet on 2024 Finals host amid reported Saudi...

WTA says no decision yet on 2024 Finals host amid reported Saudi interest

BENGALURU – The WTA is yet to decide on a venue for its 2024 season-ending Finals, the governing body of women’s tennis said, amid growing speculation that the event is headed to Saudi Arabia.

Cancun was named the 2023 edition’s host less than two months before it began on Oct 29 and the Mexico tournament drew heavy criticism from world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka over the standard of organisation.

Multiple media outlets have said the Finals are set to move to Saudi Arabia and the BBC reported that negotiations were in the late stages with both parties keen on a multi-year deal.

“We are in discussions with various groups surrounding the 2024 WTA Finals and beyond and have not made any decisions at this time,” a WTA spokesperson said in an e-mail.

“As with all WTA decisions, we are working closely with players and focused on continuing to build a strong future for women’s tennis.”

Shenzhen hosted the 2019 edition as part of a lucrative 10-year deal but the event was cancelled the following year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico in 2021.

The tournament was expected to return to Shenzhen from 2022 but the WTA suspended events in China due to concerns over the treatment of former doubles world No. 1 Peng Shuai.

Fort Worth, Texas hosted the tournament that year and drew sparse crowds.

The men’s ATP Tour said in August its Next Gen Finals for Under-21 players would be held in the Saudi commercial centre Jeddah from 2023 to 2027, marking its first official tournament in the Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia has pumped huge amounts of money into various sports including football, Formula One, boxing and golf, with critics accusing the country of using its Public Investment Fund to engage in “sportswashing” over its human rights record.

The kingdom denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security through its laws.

Meanwhile, on the men’s tour, Novak Djokovic turns 37 in May 2024 but says his appetite for success will only increase with young challengers awakening the “beast” in him.

The world No. 1 enjoyed an extraordinary season by winning three out of the four Grand Slams to take his tally to 24, two more than his great rival Rafael Nadal and four more than the retired Roger Federer.

Djokovic did not have it all his own way, however, with 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz denying him a fifth-straight Wimbledon crown in a thrilling final and 22-year-old Jannik Sinner dashing his hopes of Davis Cup glory.

“The young guys who are very hungry and very inspired to play their best tennis against me is an additional motivation,” Djokovic said on CBS News programme 60 Minutes.

“I think they kind of awaken a beast in me.”

Djokovic beat Alcaraz in three of their four meetings in 2023 – including the French Open semi-finals where the Spaniard suffered cramp – but the Serb said his young rival had become a real threat.

“He’s as complete of a player as I have seen in ages,” Djokovic said, adding that he used his defeat in the Wimbledon final as motivation for the United States hard-court swing, where he won at Cincinnati and then the US Open for the fourth time.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to reinvent myself and really push harder than I ever did.” REUTERS

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