Laura Robson: Players are getting consulted last on big decisions about their schedule | Tennis News

As the WTA Finals head to Saudi Arabia concerns remain over how much thought is being given to the health and safety of the players and what input they have in the process.

The women’s professional tennis tour announced a deal last week that will see prize money for this November’s tournament raised to $15.25m (£12m), a 70 per cent increase from 2023.

The deal is the latest in a recent wave of investment by Saudi Arabia in tennis with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur openly backing the move.

“It feels like to me that consulting players in these things gets lost and they’re the last ones to find out what’s going on,” said Sky Sports Tennis expert Laura Robson.

“The players are the last ones to find out what’s changing with the calendars. Yes, there’s an ATP and WTA players council but do they feel like they’re part of the decision making process? No, not really.

“There’s been a lot of male-dominant sporting events that have happened in Saudi Arabia but this is definitely the biggest women’s sporting event that they’ve done.

“You’d want there to be a decent crowd and a good atmosphere but whether that’s actually possible, I don’t know.

“It’s an interesting one because the money is on the table and the WTA needs it right now.”

Tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are among those to have raised questions about LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia but the WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon declaring it an “exciting new opportunity” and a “positive step for the long-term growth of women’s tennis as a global and inclusive sport.”

While the investment is starting off as Saudi Arabia hosting the WTA Finals, questions are being raised about whether there will be a Saudi Masters eventually and if so, where this will fit in the tennis calendar.

FIFA is hoping to sign off Saudi Arabia’s World Cup bid to host the men’s 2034 World Cup at the end of this year after Australia chose not to bid with Amnesty International demanding human rights commitments if they are confirmed.

“I think Saudi Arabia is trying to get into any and every sport. It started with smaller events and then got into golf and there’s been a conversation around tennis for almost two years,” said Robson.

“I don’t think anyone is surprised but where does it go from here? Is it enough to have the WTA Finals or will there be a Masters event?

“There’s a lot of conversations happening across the ATP and WTA with all seven governing bodies in tennis which makes it really complicated.

“I don’t think this is similar to a LIV golf where Saudi are coming in to start a new tour, I think they just want to have a slice of the pie.”

Henman: Tough to fit another tournament

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Andy Murray says he doesn’t know enough details of Saudi Arabia’s tennis bid to decide whether he’s for or against the idea

With the tennis calendar already packed with tournaments it is difficult to predict and place where another mandatory Masters event would fit in.

“We already know how tough it is to fit in the right tournament and how to plan the tennis year,” said Sky Sports Tennis expert Tim Henman.

“There isn’t a lot of time for a decent break and then a training block so to pack in another event which would be mandatory could be interesting because there are so many parts in play.

“Saudi have already invested in tennis as sponsors of the ranking system and it seems they want to have an event as well.

“The challenge is if there is going to be an event in Saudi Arabia, when does it take place? For the event to happen in week one, it has massive implications for Australian tennis with the Australian Open.

“It will be interesting to see how the conversation moves forward.”

The clay court season continues at the Monte Carlo Masters this week – live on Sky Sports Tennis from 10am, Wednesday – one of the biggest tournaments in the lead-up to the second Grand Slam of the season, the French Open, which starts on May 20.

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