Saudi tennis bid to face competition from Qatar and United Arab Emirates

The Public Investment Fund's presence at Indian Wells
In a statement given to Telegraph Sport, the ATP insisted that the tenth Masters is part of their strategy for unifying tennis - Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Association of Tennis Professionals has thrown open the bidding process for a tenth Masters 1000 event, probably staged in the first week of the season, so that the Saudi billions will have competition from other oil-rich states.

A fortnight ago, Telegraph Sport revealed that the Saudis had made a ten-figure offer, with a 90-day “take it or leave it” expiration date.

That bid worked out at a combined total of US$1.3bn across the men’s and women’s tours, and took in this new Masters event along with sponsorship rights and other tournament commitments including a WTA Finals in Riyadh.

It was unveiled in Indian Wells just over two weeks ago by ATP boss Andrea Gaudenzi, who controversially allowed representatives of the four grand slams to leave the room before he revealed the Saudi bid to the ATP’s tournament directors.

But the ATP has now decided to give the Qataris, the Emiratis and Tennis Australia a chance to place rival offers. In fact, there could be two separate Emirati bids – one coming from Dubai and one from Abu Dhabi – to run alongside those from Doha, Riyadh and Melbourne (although some sources expect Tennis Australia to turn down the invitation).

In a statement given to Telegraph Sport, the ATP insisted that the tenth Masters is part of their strategy for unifying tennis – although the grand-slam representatives who were cut out of Gaudenzi’s original Saudi revelation in Indian Wells might raise an eyebrow in response.

The statement says: “We have consistently called for more collaboration in tennis, advocating for a shared governance structure, with fair representation for the players, and a centralised commercial strategy across tennis.

“Our roadmap includes the potential creation of a tenth ATP Masters 1000 tournament. An official bid process is currently underway.”

Telegraph Sport understands that the Saudis have now withdrawn their original $1.3bn offer but are expected to resubmit a new bid as part of this tender process. The window for applications is very tight, as the ATP board want to discuss the bids during the Madrid Masters in five weeks’ time.

Indeed, that Madrid tournament now looks likely to be the venue for the next showdown between the oil-funded ATP plan and the grand slams’ rival intention to create a streamlined “Premium Tour”.

In theory, these two projects could possibly co-exist – but not if the tenth Masters event is scheduled in the first week of the season, as that would cut across established Tennis Australia tournaments such as the United Cup, and only exacerbate the existing ill-feeling between Gaudenzi and Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.

One potential compromise could involve rescheduling this new Masters event so that it runs in February, although that would require hefty compensation payments to the many smaller tournaments now occupying that space.

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