Same-sex couples can share rooms at WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia


Daria Kasatkina pumps her fist

Daria Kasatkina is the tour’s most visible gay player – Getty Images/Robert Prange

Same-sex couples will be allowed to share rooms when the WTA Finals move to Saudi Arabia at the end of this season, according to a representative of the tour.

In an announcement that underlined the Middle East’s growing influence within tennis, the WTA confirmed today that Riyadh will host the Finals for the next three years. The prize money will begin at $15.25 million, matching the expected payout for the men’s finals in Turin, and setting a new record for an event on the women’s tour.

One of the issues surrounding this decision is that homosexuality of any kind is forbidden under Sharia law. “Tough to talk about,” said Daria Kasatkina, the tour’s most visible gay player, when the subject came up last summer. “For me, I don’t think that everything is about the money.”

But Marina Storti, chief executive of WTA Ventures, told Telegraph Sport that “we have been assured that everybody will be welcome in Saudi Arabia, regardless of sexual orientation or religion. If there are same-sex couples travelling to Riyadh and they want to share rooms in the hotel, that will be accommodated”.

Storti was also asked about the vocal opposition to Saudi Arabia that was expressed in January by tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. In a joint column published by the Washington Post, Evert and Navratilova said: “Taking a tournament there would represent a significant step backward, to the detriment not just of women’s sport, but women.”

In reply, Storti said: “We have been in discussions with Chris and Martina, I have huge respect for the legends of the game. We had conversations, listened to their concerns, shared everything with the players, read the letters they have sent us. We continue to have a really good relationship with them but we had to make the right decision for the players, the fans and the tour.”

The decision has been taken against the background of a turbulent few weeks within tennis politics, as the four grand slams try to develop a streamlined “Premium Tour” consisting of 15 high-level events.

Meanwhile, Andrea Gaudenzi – who runs the ATP Tour – is auctioning off a tenth Masters 1000 event, with most insiders expecting Riyadh to be the winner of that contest as well.

According to the terms of the deal, the WTA Finals will take place from Nov 2 to Nov 9 and remain in Riyadh for at least another two seasons. The top eight singles players and doubles teams will qualify, and the prize money pool is expected to grow in line with the ATP Finals over the remainder of the contract.



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