World No 1 Iga Swiatek asked for her views about Rafael Nadal’s controversial Saudi Arabia role

Shahida Jacobs
Iga Swiatek media duties
Iga Swiatek during a press conference

Iga Swiatek admitted it was hard for her to have an opinion on Rafael Nadal’s decision to take up a role with the Saudi Tennis Federation while she also believes tennis authorities should “take responsibility” if there is a backlash over tournaments being staged in Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, tennis great Nadal dropped a big bombshell as he revealed he has taken up the role of ambassador with the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF).

Fans were outraged as many believe Saudi Arabia is using its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, to hide the country’s awful human rights abuse record and its strict anti-homosexuality laws, among other things.

PIF has been accused of sportswashing following major investments in football and golf over the past few years and it has turned its attention to tennis.

The country was also awarded the rights to stage the Next Generation ATP Finals over the next few years with talk that the WTA Finals could follow suit while it is also reportedly on the verge of a big investment in the ATP Tour.

During the press conference world No 1 Swiatek was asked “Rafael Nadal is going to be the ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation given the nation’s track record on human rights, especially with women, how does that sit with you? Is that something you are comfortable with?”

She replied: “Honestly I didn’t know that this was the case [of Nadal joining]. It’s hard. Everything that’s going on in the sport is not black and white and it’s hard for me to sum up in one sentence if I don’t know.

“There were a lot of rumours about WTA Finals going to Saudi Arabia and we’re still waiting for the decision. It was always hard for me to say if it’s good or not because it’s not easy for women in these areas, but obviously these countries also want to change and improve politically and sociologically.

“In terms of many events that were held, there were rumours about sportswashing. I have nothing to do with Rafa and his decisions, in my case it should be up to the federations and the governing bodies who decide if we (the players) are going to play there or not. If there would be some negative backlash, they should take the responsibility.

“It’s hard to straightforwardly go one way and say anything. I don’t know about Rafa’s decision, but obviously men’s sport is already there in Saudi Arabia. I don’t know if it’s a good decision or not. I am trying not to be too upfront.”

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