The ATP, the organizer of the top men’s tennis tour, announced a new partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The deal sees the PIF become the title sponsor of several ATP Tour events, most notably its season-ending ATP Final and the youth category Next Gen ATP Finals, which in 2024 are set to be staged in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

Alongside the finals, PIF will title sponsor a host of prominent ATP Masters 1000 events including the Indian Wells Open, Miami Open, Madrid Open, as well as the ATP 500 China Open in Beijing.

The deal, reportedly set for an initial five-year contract, also sees the PIF become the naming partner of the men’s player rankings, which had previously been sponsored by market trading platform Pepperstone since 2022.

ATP chief executive Massimo Calvelli stated: “Our strategic partnership with PIF marks a major moment for tennis. It's a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport. With PIF’s dedication to the next generation – fostering innovation and creating opportunities for all – the stage is set for a transformative new period of progress.”

Mohamed AlSayyad, PIF head of corporate brand added: "Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for the growth of the global tennis landscape, developing talent, fostering inclusivity, and driving sustainable innovation. This strategic partnership aligns with our broader vision to enhance quality of life and drive transformation in sport both within Saudi and across the world.''

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The ATP had been reportedly in talks with the PIF for investment as far back as June 2023, with tour chair Andrea Gaudenzi telling the Financial Times at the time that outside investors “investors must “stick to respecting the history of the sport and the product, working with the current stakeholder rather than against.”

He added: “You have to preserve something almost sacred, the rules of the game. This is not a video game; this is not a movie.

“It’s not only about creating a new tour or buying a tournament.”

The ATP Tour’s interest in outside investment comes amid a flood of private equity groups and sovereign wealth funds pouring funds into the sport, which is seen as a lucrative asset class.

The addition of the ATP Tour to the PIF’s sponsorship portfolio is a large one for the investment group which has prioritized sports as its preferred investment vehicle.

Research by GlobalData shows that the PIF’s total spending across its five main sports of soccer, golf, motor racing, horse racing, and boxing has exceeded $7.68 billion, primarily through the group’s purchase of soccer club Newcastle United, and its breakaway golfing tour LIV Golf.

Allegations of sportswashing have been repeatedly leveled against the PIF over this time, with many claiming that the company is using its investments to shield the Kingdom from public criticism of its environmental and human rights record.

“A glance at any social media post criticizing the owners of Manchester City or Newcastle will find comments from fans either deflecting or defending the owners due to the prospect of those owners funding on-field success”, says Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis at GlobalData Sport. “Blind loyalty is typically the preserve of sports fans, and this makes sportswashing extremely effective.”

Although tennis finances have broadly returned to normal following the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic-enforced lockdown, to keep up with other global sports, tennis governing bodies have found it necessary to find outside investment.

In 2023 the Women’s Tennis Association looked instead to CVC Capital Partners for outside investment, selling a stake of around 20% of its media rights to the equity fund.

The WTA has also been exploring the idea of hosting events in Saudi Arabia, despite the country’s human rights record, indicating that the Kingdom’s plans for tennis stretch far beyond the ATP and its initial 5-year partnership.