The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) governing body has announced a new partnership with the Saudi Tennis Federation that will see the next three editions of its showpiece season-ending WTA Finals held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Through the agreement, Saudi Arabia will also help the WTA to offer record prize money of $15.25 million for the 2024 edition of the event, which will be held from November 2 to 9. This prize money total will be increased to even higher figures for the 2025 and 2026 editions.

The WTA stated that it selected the kingdom as the three-year host for the WTA Finals through a “comprehensive evaluation process” with multiple bidders that spanned multiple months.

Criteria for those that bid included the ability to properly fund and deliver elite WTA events, willingness to support the WTA’s prize money growth ambitions, and a strong commitment to the growth of the WTA Finals itself.

Steve Simon, WTA chief executive, stated in July 2023 that the organization was examining the prospect of hosting events in Saudi despite “big issues” concerning the country's stance on women's and LGBTQ+ rights.

Although Simon stated that they were still evaluating the prospect at the time, he went on to frame the situation as potentially offering an opportunity to help improve human rights in Saudi Arabia.

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With the WTA now confirming it will indeed host events in the kingdom, many critics will be skeptical on whether the organization intends to follow through on this prospect of improving women’s and LGBTQ+ rights in Saudi.

The Saudi Tennis Federation has already hosted one season-ending event for a top-tier tennis tour, with the city of Jeddah staging the 2023 finals of the ATP’s Next Gen Finals, the final of the developmental men's tour for 20-year-olds and under.

Marina Storti, chief executive of WTA Ventures, the WTA’s commercial division, stated: “This multi-year partnership expands the WTA’s presence in the Middle East and brings us to a country with huge potential for growth, as well as supporting our ambitious plans to accelerate the global development and progress of women’s tennis.

“We're looking forward to working with the Saudi Tennis Federation over the coming years to grow the WTA Finals, create more fans, and inspire more people to play our brilliant sport."

The announcement of the WTA bringing its finals to Saudi comes amid reports that the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, has tabled an offer worth $2 billion to merge the WTA and ATP together.

The Telegraph newspaper has reported that a Saudi deal with the tours would see the kingdom host a Masters 1000 event in the first week of the annual tennis season, a space currently reserved for the United Cup mixed-gender competition in Australia.

Andrea Gaudenzi, current chief executive of the ATP Tour, is behind the Saudi plan, which would entail the men’s and women’s tours being united under one PIF banner, it has been reported. The proposal deal would also see the ATP end-of-season finals held in Saudi Arabia.