PARTSI: Reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek says the Ukraine war has caused “chaos” in the world of sport.
In an interview with French daily Le Monde on Tuesday, the Pole also hit out at the ruling bodies of tennis, the ATP and WTA, saying they had failed to provide leadership on the issue of Ukrainian players facing Russians on the court.
“There are indeed tensions among the players, sometimes the atmosphere in the locker room is quite heavy,” the 21-year-old said.
“At the beginning of the conflict, there was a lack of leadership on the part of the tennis authorities, we were not brought together to explain how we were supposed to manage this complex situation and how to behave.
“Those who are in the worst position are the Ukrainian players and it would be good if we paid more attention to what they feel and what they endure.”
Her fears were illustrated on Sunday when Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk was booed at the French Open for refusing to shake hands with Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka.
Kostyuk said the Paris crowd should “feel embarrassed” by their actions.
Swiatek, whose country neighbors Ukraine, was asked if she would support the participation of athletes from Russia and their ally Belarus at the Paris Olympics next year.
“It is not for us as athletes to make such a decision,” she said. “There is currently a kind of chaos in sport and the most important thing is not to make it worse, to share values that are the right ones and to be clear that we cannot tolerate the ongoing war.”
Russia and Belarus were banned from international competition following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,
In March this year, the International Olympic Committee recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes return to international competition, without commenting on their possible presence at the Paris Games.
Swiatek says Ukraine war has caused ‘chaos’ in sport
Swiatek says Ukraine war has caused ‘chaos’ in sport
- The Pole also hit out at the ruling bodies of tennis, the ATP and WTA, saying they had failed to provide leadership on the issue of Ukrainian players facing Russians on the court
- "Those who are in the worst position are the Ukrainian players and it would be good if we paid more attention to what they feel and what they endure," Swiatek said
PARTSI: Reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek says the Ukraine war has caused “chaos” in the world of sport.
Nadal confirms Brisbane return ahead of Australian Open
- “Hello everyone, after a year away from competition, it’s time to come back,” the 22-time Grand Slam winner said
- “I think I don’t deserve to end like this”
PARIS: Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal, absent from the courts for almost a year with a hip injury, announced Friday that he would return to competition in Brisbane next month ahead of the Australian Open.
“Hello everyone, after a year away from competition, it’s time to come back. It will be in Brisbane the first week of January. I’ll see you there,” the 22-time Grand Slam winner said in a post on social media.
Former world number one Nadal has not played since his defeat in the second round of the Australian Open last January, a tournament he won in 2009 and 2022.
“I think I don’t deserve to end like this,” said Nadal, referring to his Melbourne exit last year.
The 37-year-old has undergone surgery twice since and having slumped to 663rd in the world after a year without playing declared in September that the 2024 season was going to be his last.
Nadal will try to return to the highest level in Australia with the aim of competiting at the French Open which he has won a record 14 times.
He has been overtaken in the number of Grand Slam tournaments won by Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic, who now has 24 major titles.
The Spaniard had already experienced a 2021 season undermined by a foot injury, and was eliminated by Djokovic in the semifinal of the French Open.
World Tennis League unveils player roster for season 2 in Abu Dhabi
- Iga Swiatek, Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, Andrey Rublev, Stefano Tsitsipas all previously confirmed
- 16 global stars set to take part at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, latest being ATP world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 10 Taylor Fritz
ABU DHABI: Meteora World Tennis League officials have revealed a stellar line-up for the second season of the competition, confirming the final 10 players and the teams they will represent in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
Men’s world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz, Taylor Fritz (No. 10), and Casper Ruud (No. 11), are the latest names to be announced for the tournament, taking place at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena from Dec. 21 to 24. Grigor Dimitrov (No. 14) and Frances Tiafoe (No. 16) will also play.
In addition, the WTL will also see Caroline Garcia (No. 20), Sofia Kenin (No. 34), Leylah Fernandez (No. 36), Spanish star Paula Badosa, and 16-year-old sensation Mirra Andreeva in action.
The latest additions join an already stellar roster that includes women’s world No. 1 and reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, and men’s No. 3 Daniil Medvedev. Also taking to the court will be No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina (world No. 4 and 2022 Wimbledon champion), alongside No. 5 Andrey Rublev, and No. 6 Stefano Tsitsipas.
With the full 16 players revealed, the organizers also announced the four teams that the players will be representing.
Sabalenka will play for the SG Mavericks Kites, owned by SG Sports, the sporting arm of APL Apollo Tubes, taking charge for the first time in WTL. She joins Tsitsipas, Badosa, and Dimitrov in a team that will be coached by Robert Lindstedt.
Another new owner, Punit Balan Group, has purchased Team Eagles which will be represented by Medvedev, Andreeva, Rublev, and Kenin. They will be coached by John-Laffnie De Jager.
The Honor FX Falcons, owned by Honor FX features a team line-up of Rybakina, Tiafoe, Fernandez, and Fritz, with Chris Groh aiming to lead them to glory.
For The Hawks, Swiatek, Hurkacz, Garcia, and Ruud will join forces, coached by Simon Aspelin. The Hawks’ team owners will be announced by event organizers in the coming weeks.
Over the course of four days, the teams will compete against each other in men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles categories as they aim to advance and bid to become champions on the final day.
On the competition’s opening day, Hawks will begin their campaign against Honor FX Falcons, with Swiatek taking on Rybakina. The opening matches will be followed by Team Eagles’ encounter against SG Mavericks Kites, with a potential matchup between Medvedev and Tsitsipas on the table.
Day two on Friday will see Rybakina’s Honor FX Falcons meet Sabalenka’s SG Mavericks Kites before PBG Eagles, led by Medvedev, and Team Hawks featuring Ruud close out the action.
Saturday’s final day of group play will see teams looking to book their places in the next round as Rublev’s PBG Eagles take on Tiafoe’s Honor FX Falcons while SG Maverick Kites with Badosa go up against Garcia’s Hawks later in the evening.
Rajesh Banga, chairman of World Tennis League, said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing more star names to our exceptional tennis line-up for season two of the World Tennis League.
“These players are of the highest caliber and prominent names around the world so we’re pleased they will be competing in the unique tournament at our new home in Etihad Arena.”
Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
- The game has been making its mark in the Kingdom’s sports evolution, so much that its nationwide popularity cannot be missed
- Arij Almutabagani, president of the STF, has spearheaded the federation’s efforts to grow the sport
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become one of the fastest-growing countries in world of sports, emerging not only as an international sporting hub, but also a center of activities, events, and spectacles.
From athletics, football, F1, boxing, basketball, and golf, many sports are driving unprecedented socio-economic transformation under Vision 2030. They are enriching lives, enhancing well-being, and presenting a whole new world of opportunity, paving the way for people to discover passions, pursue dreams, and realize potential.
Tennis has been making its mark in the Saudi sports evolution, so much that its nationwide growth and popularity cannot be missed.
As president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, Arij Almutabagani is one of the key figures leading the charge. Since assuming her position in 2021, she has spearheaded STF’s efforts to grow the sport across all levels, laying strong foundations for tennis and all involved to thrive.
Almutabagani’s primary aspiration is building a vibrant junior tennis scene. With 63 percent of Saudi’s over 32 million population under the age of 30 and with nationwide sports participation now at 50 percent, she is adamant that tennis can embrace the Kingdom’s youth opportunities.
“Our strategy is to nurture young players, develop infrastructure, and invest in grassroots initiatives because youth is the key to any sport’s long-term success,” she said. “We’re certainly on the right path. Our strategy is working and we’re seeing interest and participation increase.”
Almutabagani’s statements are backed by glowing statistics. Saudi today is home to 177 tennis clubs, up 146 percent since 2019. In the last four years, the number of registered players has increased by 46 percent to 2,300, and U14 players by 100 percent — from 500 to over 1,000.
STF also holds 40 national tournaments annually, including hosting three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year, which marked the return of ITF events since the first was played back in 2022.
“Major strides have been taken and one of these was tennis being added to the school physical education curriculum earlier this year,” said Almutabagani.
STF’s partnership with the Saudi Sports For All Federation presented “Tennis For All” in 2022, a 16-week mass participation program to introduce tennis to a new generation of sports enthusiasts. Over 13,000 people were introduced to tennis in the first edition, with a higher figure in 2023.
This past April, “Tennis For All” was introduced in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum at 90 public schools, with STF training 170 physical education teachers to provide lessons. Participation more than doubled this time around, with an estimated 30,000 people.
“We’re targeting 200 schools in 2024 and 400 by 2025,” Almutabagani said. “Achieving this will support sustained growth as more tennis academies are launched and more national tennis centers are built. We already have 505 coaches and 182 officials in the Kingdom and we’ll be rolling out more opportunities for people to get involved.”
A sure catalyst for further sports transformation, Saudi Arabia currently hosts its first-ever professional tennis event — the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. A global, modern, and innovative competition featuring the world’s best U21 players, the finals are currently taking place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City from until Dec. 2.
Sanctioned by the ATP Tour and hosted by STF, this historic event marks the beginning of a five-year contract to bring the pinnacle of young global tennis talent to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s top male tennis player, Ammar Alhogbani, has practiced with and played against some of the eight players competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals. He said: “The growth of tennis in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabians has been exceptional in recent years, I’m blessed to be even a small a part of it. To now also have the first sanctioned ATP event in our backyard is an immensely exciting part of our next chapter.
“I’m sure having the best young players from around the world here in Jeddah will inspire future generations of Saudi to follow in their footsteps and encourage all Saudi’s players to come out and experience the event for themselves.”
Looking ahead, the value of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is growing by 8 percent per year and will reach $3.3 billion by 2024 — a $1.2 billion increase from 2018. Additionally, significant events investments are being made, with $2 billion committed to help sports grow by 2024.
“Tennis will become a big part of Saudi’s future sports event industry, and this will be the first of many professional tennis tournaments that we stage,” added Almutabagani.
“We eagerly anticipate welcoming tennis enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and beyond to witness the exhilarating matches and experience the innovation and excitement that the Next Gen ATP Finals will bring to Jeddah.”
History made on opening day of Saudi Arabia’s 1st pro tennis event
- Arthur Fils, Flavio Cobolli, Luca Van Assche, Hamad Medjedovic come out on top at start of Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM
JEDDAH: Top seed Arthur Fils became the first ATP Tour winner on Saudi Arabian soil on Tuesday at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
Flavio Cobolli, Luca Van Assche, and Hamad Medjedovic followed suit with wins in the first day’s play at King Abdullah Sports City.
Fils and Luca Nardi made history in the opening session as the first ATP Tour players to play in Saudi Arabia.
The 19-year-old Fils, the top-ranked player in the finals, prevailed 2-4, 4-3(6), 4-2, 1-4, 4-2 in a stern five-set test to make a winning start in the Green Group.
After the match, Fils said: “It was a tough match. The first time in my life I’m playing first to four games. Things can change very quickly. I was leading two sets to one, had break points, and I was feeling very good. Then I lost a deuce point, and everything changed, but I’m really happy to win today.”
On Wednesday the Frenchman will face the other winner in the Green Group, Cobolli. The Italian stunned 2022 semi-finalist Dominic Stricker for a winning start on his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in four sets; 4-2, 3-4(7), 4-1, 4-2.
Switzerland’s Stricker is the only player at this year’s event to have competed at the innovative tournament before and has previous experience playing in Saudi Arabia at last year’s Diriyah Tennis Cup.
But Cobolli was not fazed, starting fast as he adjusted to the newly implemented no warm-up rule, part of a range of innovations being incorporated.
Cobolli said: “I warmed up for a lot of time today, so I was really hot on the court. I started the match really well. The courts are so fast, but I was faster (than Stricker). I played a really good match and I’m really happy.”
Van Assche joined fellow Frenchman Fils as a first-day winner in a physical four-set win over Jordan’s Abdullah Shelbayh. After splitting the first two sets that were filled with punishing, extended baseline exchanges, the tournament’s second seed broke clear of Shelbayh in the third and ultimately closed out the match 4-3, 3-4(5), 4-1, 4-1.
Shelbayh thrilled enthusiastic local Jeddah fans with his creative angles, net approaches, and regular drop shots but Van Assche’s slight edge in the backcourt was telling.
Van Assche said: “It was a tough match today against a very tough opponent. I know Abdullah very well, he’s an amazing player. He was almost at home with the crowd cheering for him. It was a good match for me and really tough from the beginning to the end.”
The final match of the day saw Serbian Medjedovic win a five-set thriller — 4-2, 4-3(3), 3-4(3), 3-4(5), 4-3(4) — against the American Alex Michelsen.
Next Gen ATP Finals stars sightsee in Jeddah ahead of tournament
- Ahead of the first ATP-sanctioned event to be held in Saudi Arabia, the players took time to visit the historical site
LONDON: The stars of the Next Gen ATP Finals visited Al-Balad, the historic old town of Jeddah, for this year’s official group photo on Sunday.
Ahead of the first ATP-sanctioned event to be held in Saudi Arabia, the players took time to visit the historical site, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
“We’ve had a really fun time,” said 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen. “Everyone’s been having a lot of laughs. People were great and to see the old city was really, really cool.”
On the tour, the players met local Saudi graffiti artist Maajed Ahmed who has designed a bespoke ATP Next Gen piece of street art on Al-Balad’s walls.
Jordanian Abdullah Shelbayh, who received a wildcard for the event, said he enjoyed spending time with his competitors in Jeddah ahead of the tournament, which starts on Tuesday.
“It was exciting to do this with the players, they are pretty funny guys,” he said. “It was good to spend some time together outside of competition.”
Frenchman Arthur Fils, who won his maiden tour-level title in Lyon earlier this season, said Jeddah was a “great city,” adding the “people are very welcoming, I am liking it.”
Fils’ countryman Luca Van Assche practised for the first time in Jeddah on Saturday before visiting the city.
“It is an incredible experience for us,” he said. “I have never been here so it is a new country for me and civilisation and I am happy to be here to see some of the city. It is very beautiful.”
Two Italians, Luca Nardi and Flavio Cobolli, will make their debuts at the 21-and-under event. Both had fun sightseeing and playing rooftop tennis.
“It is very nice here,” Nardi said. “We are having a very good day visiting the city. I like it and the people are very nice. My first time playing tennis on a roof. It was very nice and seeing kids come. It was a nice atmosphere.”
Cobolli said: “It was a great day and I’m very happy to be here with the Next Gen class.”
Seven of the eight competitors are tournament debutants, with the exception of 2022 semifinalist Dominic Stricker.
“It was a great tour,” Stricker said. “We saw a few things of Jeddah. Seeing the old buildings and taking pictures. It is a good event and I am looking forward to playing.”