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Saudi Public Investment Fund becomes first-ever naming partner of WTA rankings

NEW YORK: In a landmark announcement on Monday, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) revealed its new role as the first-ever naming partner of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, cementing a multi-year partnership between the two entities. This collaboration signifies PIF’s expanding influence in the world of tennis, following a similar strategic partnership with the men’s ATP tour earlier this year.

WTA Ventures CEO Marina Storti expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, “Together, we look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, as we continue to grow the sport, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.”

This partnership represents a significant shift for the WTA, which had previously been cautious about engaging with Saudi Arabian sponsorships. Last year, outgoing CEO Steve Simon highlighted “big issues” regarding Saudi Arabia as a potential host for women’s tennis events. However, the WTA recently announced that Riyadh will host the season-ending WTA Finals from 2024 to 2026, with the Saudi Tennis Federation offering an unprecedented $15.25 million in prize money this year.

The decision to align with Saudi Arabia has not been without controversy. Prominent former players like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, along with Russian player Daria Kasatkina, who is openly gay, have voiced their concerns. Critics, including women’s rights activists and members of the LGBTQ community, have accused Saudi Arabia of “sports-washing”—using sports investments to divert attention from its human rights record. These criticisms arise amidst Saudi Arabia’s substantial financial commitments to other sports, including soccer, Formula One, and the LIV Golf circuit.

Mohamed AlSayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF, addressed these concerns by emphasizing PIF’s commitment to advancing women’s sports. “We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent,” he said.

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