Slowly but surely, the way forward in professional tennis is making itself clear.
The latest evidence is the announcement Monday that a top-level, six-player men’s exhibition event will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this October.
It doesn’t escape notice that this appears to be taking place DURING the ATP Tour’s season.
The six players down to take part are the biggest names in men’s tennis right now.
The announcement was made by H. E. Advisor Turki Alalshikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA).
There were no specific dates mentioned (we efforted on more information, to no avail) but obviously it will take place over several days.
But the current edition of the ATP rulebook clearly states that top-30 players may not take part in any special event during a Masters 1000 or ATP 250 week.
There are Masters 1000 events the first two weeks of the month (Shanghai) and then the Paris Masters from Oct. 28, with a pair of 500 events (Basel and Vienna) the week of Oct. 21.
That essentially, per these rules, leaves the third week of the month, when ATP 250s in Almaty, Antwerp and Stockholm offer more than $2.5 million combined in prize money, means those events might not have even a whisper of a shot at getting one of the biggest names in the game to boost their event.
(Holger Rune played Stockholm last year, presumably with a nice appearance fee, but lost his opener to Miomir Kecmanovic. None of the others played that week, but it’s a busy month with two Masters 1000s – including one on the compressed timeframe in Paris).
The Next Gen Finals are already happening in Riyadh, but not until Dec. 18-22.
We’ve got quotes!
The press-release quotes (we don’t have huge faith the players actually SAID these things, but that’s the racket):
Djokovic: “I am excited to return to Riyadh and play in front of all my Saudi fans”.
Nadal: “After some other tennis players have done so, I am very excited to play for the first time in Riyadh”.
Alcaraz: “I’m very happy to come back to Riyadh to show the best of my game”.
Medvedev: “I am really looking forward to coming back to Saudi. Ever since my first trip in 2019 I have been back several times and really looking forward to being part of this new event. The best players in the world all in one place is exciting. I cannot wait to see everyone out there.”
Sinner: “I’m very excited to be playing in Riyadh for the first time. The group of players selected will be fun to play against. Very much looking forward to it”.
Rune: “I’m thrilled to come to Riyadh for the first time to compete against such a phenomenal group of players”.
The extravaganza is part of “Riyadh Season 2024“, which begins in October and last several months.
Other events include a friendly between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr and Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami, and a boxing match featuring Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou.