Thanasi Kokkinakis has backed tennis’ move into Saudi Arabia weeks after it was announced that the ATP would stage the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah. The world No 71 explained that tennis needed the extra investment as players struggled to make money compared to other sports, where their athletes weren’t “really worrying” because they were comfortable.
Tennis has become the latest sport to make its way into Saudi Arabia as the nation was given its first official tournament. The 21-and-under Next Gen Finals will be moving to Jeddah in a new five-year deal, while other events could soon follow suit.
Last year, an exhibition event was staged in Diriyah while there were previously talks that the WTA Finals could be held in Riyadh before the women’s tour settled on Cancun this year. Some players, like Daria Kasatkina, previously condemned the idea of seeing more tournaments in Saudi Arabia, claiming that “money talks”.
But Kokkinakis has now explained why players need the extra financial boost as he supported the tennis tours moving into Saudi. “I think anything to grow the game, anything to get players paid what I think they’re worth, if Saudis wanna invest in tennis, I think is great for the game,” the Australian told Clay Tenis.
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“Obviously you play for the love of the sport and there’s a lot of great events and you don’t want to lose the culture of the Grand Slams and some other big tour events around. But if they are willing to come and help fund the players… tennis is a tough sport out there.”
The 27-year-old explained that some players just inside the top 100 still had to worry about their finances when it came to making a living and travelling around the circuit when compared with athletes in other sports. He continued: “You wanna get paid.
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“If you are 80 in the world or anything in any other sport you are making very comfortable money, you’re not really worrying about travelling day to day. So I think that’s a big part.” And Kokkinakis isn’t the only player who is happy to see Saudi Arabia invest in tennis, as Ons Jabeur rubbished criticism of the nation and praised them for trying to change.
“There is no perfect country,” the Tunisian tennis star told Glamour. “For me, these countries are trying to change, they’re trying to do something good. So many women are waiting for these opportunities.”
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