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Tennis giant ATP Tour partners with Saudi Arabia's investment fund

The ATP Tour organises prestigious global tennis events and is set to give Saudi Arabia's investment fund naming rights for men's rankings
Australia's Aleksandar Vukic during the Mexico ATP Open 250 men's singles tennis match at Cabo Sports Complex in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico, on 20 February 2024 (Alfredo Estrella/AFP)

The ATP Tour announced a multi-year strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), signalling the Gulf nation's escalating impact on international sports.

The alliance was announced on Wednesday by the Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body for men's tennis which organises the ATP Tour, a worldwide top-tier tennis tour for men.

According to the announcement, the PIF is set to be the official naming sponsor for the men's rankings and will also collaborate with ATP tournaments in locations such as Indian Wells, the ATP Finals in Turin and the Next Gen ATP Finals, which will be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"Our strategic partnership with PIF marks a major moment for tennis," ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli said in a statement.

"It's a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport. With PIF's dedication to the next generation - fostering innovation and creating opportunities for all - the stage is set for a transformative new period of progress."

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In October, Saudi Arabia is slated to organise a premier tennis exhibition event that will feature Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and three other Grand Slam winners.

Mohamed al-Sayyad, the head of corporate brand at PIF, said that PIF will be a "catalyst for growth of the global tennis landscape" through its collaboration with ATP. 

Saudi Arabia one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights, according to index
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"This strategic partnership aligns with our broader vision to enhance quality of life and drive transformation in sport both within Saudi and across the world," he added. 

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has poured significant investments into diverse sporting endeavours, including football, Formula One, boxing, and golf.

In 2023, the PIF-financed LIV Golf series controversially merged with the long-established and prestigious PGA Tour. 

The kingdom has been accused of sportswashing, a tactic employed by oppressive governments to legitimise their rule and divert attention from human rights violations at home. 

Seven Saudi men were executed on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has now executed 31 people this year after putting at least 172 people to death in 2023, rights groups monitoring executions in the kingdom have said.

It is the highest number of people put to death in the kingdom since March 2022, when 81 were executed. That year the kingdom carried out more executions than any other country besides China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Human rights organisations have consistently condemned Saudi Arabia for its handling of activists and dissidents, highlighting numerous instances of torture inflicted on both female and male prisoners of conscience.

In 2021, data published by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative showed that Riyadh was one of the most disempowering countries in the world.

The study's findings were a product of the government's ban on protests, limits on free expression and civil society organisations, and the inability of citizens to vote or participate in public life.

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