RIYADH: The Next Gen ATP Finals is set to make history as the first international tennis event hosted in Saudi Arabia when it takes place at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.
The ground-breaking tournament not only showcases the prowess of men’s under-21 tennis players but also promises a fusion of talent, culture, and innovation.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, two promising young players, Luca Van Assche and Arthur Fils, both from France, shared their excitement ahead of the tournament and their eagerness to compete in Saudi Arabia.
Van Assche said: “I am delighted to participate in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah, as it introduces me to a part of the world I have yet to explore. I am also eager to immerse myself in a new culture. What intrigues me the most is the weather and the modernity of the city.”
Fils felt the Jeddah event could be a catalyst for a surge in tennis interest in the region.
He said: “I believe it’s a prime location, offering a new sport to the country. Consequently, I anticipate a significant turnout of fans who will come to watch and understand this sport.”
Van Assche noted that participating in Jeddah offered a golden opportunity for players to gain worldwide recognition.
“It is a great opportunity for each player to be known by the whole world. It teaches us how to deal with very big events,” he added.
On the impact of Saudi Arabia hosting the event, Van Assche said: “There will be a lot of people watching this tournament; it’s a worldwide event, so it will, of course, have a big influence on this region. And I hope it will follow the same path as football, for example, and become a very popular sport there.”
Inspired by the success stories of current tennis champions who emerged from the Next Gen ATP Finals, Fils viewed the tournament as a crucial milestone.
“It’s very nice to play this tournament because a lot of champions now played like Alcaraz, Tiafoe, Sinner, De Minaur, and all these guys. So, let’s try to have the path of progress like these players.
“I think that a lot of young people will come and like this sport, so maybe there will be new players and champions from this region in the world,” Fils added.
With some rules set to be changed for the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals, the event continues to lead in tennis innovation, aiming to enhance the experience for players and fans.
“Of course, it will change a lot from the ATP tournaments. These rules are not easy, and it complicates the game a lot. But I will try to understand them well and do my best,” Van Assche added.
Keeping an open mind, Fils welcomed the new rules cautiously.
He said: “It’s funny and nice to have new rules. I don’t know if it’ll be a good idea to change the game in this way, but let’s see how it is because it’s my first time.”
The tournament, traditionally held in Milan since 2017, will see the prize money for the hardcourt competition increased to a record $2 million — up from $1.4 million last year — in the Saudi edition.
The record prize money for the 2023 tournament was “another source of motivation” for Van Assche, while Fils pointed out that while money itself did not directly influence his motivation, “it can help young players to fund their year or a part of the year.”
Van Assche and Fils will be joined by a lineup of accomplished players at the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals. The roster includes American Alex Michelsen, Serbian Hamad Medjedovic, and Luca Nardi and Flavio Cobolli from Italy. Swiss player Dominic Stricker and Abedallah Shelbayh from Jordan will also be part of the ensemble.