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ABU DHABI: Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur on Saturday threw her support behind the potential staging of the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia, urging critics to be “more informed” on the Kingdom’s interest in the sport.
Jabeur, a three-time Grand Slam finalist and former world number two, said she was impressed by the response of Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, to criticism from Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert of the WTA’s possible deal with the Kingdom.
Princess Reema said the two tennis legends based their stance on “outdated stereotypes,” adding that, “failing to acknowledge the great progress women have made in Saudi Arabia denigrates our remarkable journey.”
“Princess Reema’s answer was unbelievable. I think classy, elegant, and every player was impressed with the way she addressed Martina’s and Chris’ letter,” Jabeur told AFP in Abu Dhabi.
“We’re obviously looking forward to go there, I’m personally looking forward to go there.”
The WTA Finals tournament has been in search for a stable home for the past three years.
A 10-year historic deal with the city of Shenzhen resulted in only one staging of the event, in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the reported disappearance of Peng Shuai, led the women’s tour to take its crown jewel elsewhere.
Navratilova, 67, and Evert, 69, each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles between 1974 and 1991.
Their opinion article in The Washington Post last month was headlined: “We did not help build women’s tennis for it to be exploited by Saudi Arabia.”
The strongest bid on the table at the moment is believed to come from the Saudis, and an announcement that the WTA Finals will be heading to Riyadh seems imminent.
“It’s amazing to go there and inspire, not just women, men too,” said Tunisian Jabeur.
“I think it is very important to do that. Hopefully if the WTA Finals goes there, I will be one of the supportive players, to try, not just to go play matches there, but also to do a campaign. To go there and do a lot more than just playing tennis.”
Jabeur, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund-owned fitness and wellness brand Kayanee, said there are many misconceptions about the progress being made in the Kingdom.
“I feel like people should be more informed about what’s happening in Saudi; more informed about how the country is getting better and better and I feel like it’s important not to just listen to one side; in anything to be honest with you, not just in this matter, but to anything,” said the sixth-ranked Jabeur.
The 29-year-old faced Aryna Sabalenka in an exhibition match in Riyadh in December, with Novak Djokovic squaring off with Carlos Alcaraz at the same event the following day.
Beyond the exhibition matches, Saudi Arabia has made several moves in tennis, staging the NextGen ATP Finals in Jeddah in December, as part of a five-year deal, and appointing Rafael Nadal as an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation.
“I honestly feel so safe there and felt amazing. I wish to share this experience with other players,” added Jabeur.
Jabeur was speaking ahead of her participation in the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, a WTA 500 tournament which kicks off on Monday February 5.
The No.2 seed will begin her campaign against wildcard Emma Raducanu or Czech Marie Bouzkova and is slated to play doubles alongside former world number one Naomi Osaka.

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