Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia: Andy Murray rules out playing tennis in the kingdom

Comments follow reports Saudi Arabia had expressed an interest in hosting a tennis tournament on the WTA Tour
Sports and entertainment events have formed part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and improve its international reputation (AFP)

Three-times Grand Slam winner Andy Murray has ruled out any possibility of playing in Saudi Arabia in the future, adding that he had previously turned down an offer to play in the kingdom.

British media reports last week said Saudi Arabia had expressed an interest in hosting a tennis tournament on the WTA Tour.

Professional golf has become caught up in controversy in recent months over the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, which has been feuding with the PGA Tour and drawn criticism from several professional golfers, in part over human rights concerns.

Saudi Arabia has hosted exhibition tennis events, with world number one Daniil Medvedev winning the inaugural Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia in 2019, which featured a $3m prize pot, AFP reported.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had been due to meet in an exhibition match in Saudi Arabia in 2018, but it was called off after Nadal picked up an ankle injury.

"They put on an event in Saudi Arabia a few years ago and I was offered to play there," Murray told a news conference on Saturday, ahead of the start of Wimbledon.

"I know a number of the other guys on the tour were offered to play there.

"A lot of the top players turned it down. I wouldn't go and play there."

The grass-court Grand Slam begins on Monday, with Murray facing Australia's James Duckworth in the first round.

Sports and entertainment events have formed part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and improve its international reputation. 

Rights groups have long campaigned against such events, saying they are being used to distract attention from the kingdom's human rights violations. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.