Ons Jabeur - Australian Open 2024

Ons Jabeur reveals she is ‘very supportive’ of Saudi Arabia hosting the WTA Finals

Ons Jabeur has reacted to the announcement of Jeddah hosting the WTA Finals, with the Tunisian claiming that Saudi Arabia ‘give a lot more rights than any country’.

Jabeur is the highest ranked Arab woman in history, and has qualified for the WTA Finals for the past two years in Fort Worth and Cancun.

However, the two-time Wimbledon finalist has struggled for form in recent months and lost her fifth consecutive match in Charleston yesterday.

At the Charleston Open, the world No.6 was asked about the announcement that the Saudi capital would be hosting the year-end tournament for the next three years.

“I’m very biased here, as you know,” answered Jabeur. “But, honestly, I’m very supportive for this decision, as an Arab woman, as someone that grew up wanting to have more and more tournaments in Arab countries, obviously.

“I know some people maybe here have a different opinion about Saudi. I do understand, but I wish they could be open about hearing what I have to say or what women there have to say. I think it’s a great opportunity. I wish people would be more supportive, obviously.”

The tournament in Jeddah later this year will see a 70% increase in prize money from 2023, with a record pot of $15.25 million on offer to the top eight singles players and doubles teams from the season.

And this is something that Jabeur was keen to point out, “They’re actually respecting us because they offered us very good prize money. Maybe not everything is about the money, but I don’t see any offer being the same as in Saudi.”

She continued, “I feel, also, it’s a great opportunity for us to be there and continue for the changes that they’re making for women. I know how it was before, and I see how it is right now. I’ve been there a couple of times.

“And, honestly, I see a lot of comments about human rights all the time. But I do think like it’s a country, it’s getting there and giving a lot of more rights than any country, to be honest with you.”

The potential of the WTA Finals being hosted in Saudi Arabia has received a lot of backlash in recent months, due to poor human rights records surrounding women and LGBTQ+ individuals, with WTA legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert two of the most vocal people.

Marina Storti, who is the CEO of WTA Ventures, revealed that there had been discussions with Navratilova and Evert upon this announcement.

“We had a lot of constructive discussions with Martina and Chris,” said Storti. “Obviously they are legends of the WTA, they are highly respected, and they had some concerns. Ultimately we feel like we’re making the right decision for the sport, for women’s tennis, for our players, for our fans. We think it’s an exciting opportunity and an important step for the long-term growth of the sport.”

The WTA Finals in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will take place between the 2nd and 9th November later this year.

Inside the baseline…

To an extent, it is understandable that Ons Jabeur has some admitted bias to this announcement, as she would certainly be the fan favourite at the event in Saudi Arabia. However, it is somewhat naive to suggest that Saudi Arabia is suddenly this beacon of human rights and the decision is not motivated by money and sportswashing. Obviously there is still lots of time to go this season, but Jabeur is currently sat outside the top 80 in the current race to the Finals, in what would be a huge blow for the tournament atmosphere if she was not to qualify.

READ MORE: WTA Finals announce Saudi Arabia as host for the next three years

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.