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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Jessica Pegula Mulls Saudi Tennis Deal Amid Equal Pay Push

  • Pegula says Saudi Arabia’s involvement could help the WTA reach pay equity with men’s tennis.
  • The men's ATP Tour is considering investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
World No. 4 says Saudi Arabia’s potential business could help the WTA reach pay equity.
Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Amid Saudi Arabia’s interest in investing in professional tennis and hosting tournaments, world No. 4-ranked player Jessica Pegula acknowledged that the Kingdom’s potential involvement could help the WTA reach equal prize money with the ATP. 

“If they (Saudi Arabia) could help getting us to equal prize money, though there are negatives, there’s a lot of positives that can come out of it,” Pegula said ahead of Wimbledon, per Reuters. “Hopefully, we don’t just look at the negatives, and we can see the positives. Hopefully, something good comes out of it the right way.”

The American-born Pegula is from the billionaire family that owns the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. WTA legend Billie Jean King also supports hosting women’s tennis events in Saudi Arabia, which is a possibility discussed by WTA CEO Steve Simon.

“We haven’t made any decisions or entered into any formal negotiations. They’re [Saudi Arabia] talking to a lot of different sports right now,” Simon said, according to the BBC. “We’re evaluating like everybody else,” he added. “There are still tonnes of issues in Saudi Arabia, with respect to the LGBTQ+ community there, that have to be done. We have had conversations and we will continue to have conversations.”

In June, ATP chair Andrea Gaudenz said that the tour has had “positive” discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund about a potential investment in men’s tennis. The PIF has invested in LIV Golf, which merged with the PGA Tour, as well as domestic and global soccer, boxing, Formula 1, the WWE, and gaming.

“I don’t know why in the hell tennis would suddenly be; let’s talk to the Saudis after the debacle that you’re watching in golf. To me, it’s comical that it’s even being brought up right now,” tennis legend John McEnroe said last week. 

Men and women currently get equal prize money at tennis’s four Grand Slams, but other tournaments typically have a smaller prize pool for women. The WTA recently outlined a new plan to reach full prize money equity with the ATP by 2033.

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