Novak Djokovic vs Carlos Alcaraz in Saudi Arabia – when it is, what can we expect, how much are they getting paid?
It is one of the most talked about exhibition matches in tennis for a long time, but why are Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz renewing their rivalry in Saudi Arabia later this month?
Money, money and more money would appear to be the driving force behind an event that will take place on December 27, with the top two players in men’s tennis set to cash in on their superstar status by playing at the Kingdom Arena, which has a capacity for 40,000 fans.
WHY IS THIS MATCH HAPPENING?
Djokovic and Alcaraz will suggest the chance to compete against each other ahead of the start of the new season is a great chance to fine-tune their game, but the truth is this match is happening due to the huge cash sums that are on offer.
The World No 1 and No 2 are the biggest draws in men’s tennis right now and with Saudi chiefs keen to attract the world’s biggest names to play in their kingdom, it was only natural for a big-money offer to be presented to Djokovic and Alcaraz.
The two giants of the men’s game will be joined in Saudi Arabia by WTA Tour stars Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur, who will play an exhibition match on December 26.
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAY
Djokovic on Saudi Arabian involvement in sport: “I think that we as individual sport on a global level are probably closest to golf in terms of how we see sports. I think from that example we can probably learn a lot, some positives, some negatives, and try to structure a deal if it’s going in that direction in a proper way that is going to protect the integrity and tradition and history of this sport, but still be able to grow it in such way that it will be appropriate.
“It was just a question of time when they were to start some kind of negotiations or conversations in tennis to try to enter tennis. They’ve done that with pretty much all other global sports, except maybe basketball. We see what’s happening in football for the last few years, the stars that are going there for tremendous amounts of money.”
Ons Jabeur: “As an Arab player, I’d be very excited to be there. I am someone pushing for change, pushing to give more and more opportunities, especially for women. I know in Saudi they’re changing things and they’re evolving,” said world number five Jabeur.
“I’ve been there last year to give a speech and interview there. It was very nice meeting a lot of amazing women there. For me, I was trying to push to have tennis in Saudi. I think it’s a great step. I think it’s something that could help the Arab world to have more tennis players and to get more involved in sports.
“If they play there, and hopefully if I qualify, it will be a great honour and opportunity for me to go and play there, especially meeting a lot of women. They told me they look up to me. That would be a great opportunity for me to meet them and speak to them.”
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HOW MUCH ARE THEY GETTING PAID?
We would all like to know the answer to that question.
Roger Federer’s appearance fee for an event like this topped $1million many years ago, so it is safe to assume Djokovic and Alcaraz are getting a fee well in excess of that to take part.
The match will be part of the Riyhad Season events, which already featured a boxing match starring world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, with his fellow British heavyweight part of a star-stuff card that also includes US big-hitter Deontay Wilder on December 23.
That event will also be staged at the Kingdom Arena, with the stadium set to be quickly converted into a tennis venue for the first match of the Riyadh Season Tennis Cup three days later.
IS THIS THE FUTURE OF TENNIS?
Saudi Arabia looks certain to have a big role in what comes next for tennis.
They are already hosting the ATP Next Gen Finals for the next few years and are widely expected to be confirmed as the hosts for the WTA Finals in 2024.
Tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert are among those who have questioned the increased involvement of Saudi Arabia in tennis, but money talks in any walk of life and that explains why they have the two most valuable assets in the sport playing an exhibition match on their soil.
Football, Formula 1, golf and boxing are all embracing the riches that are being offered by Saudi Arabia, so tennis would be negligent if they don’t at least explore the opportunities at a time when the sport is looking to find fresh ways to filter its wealth down to lower level players.
The concern may be that all the additional cash coming in from Saudi Arabia would go to star names like Djokovic, Alcaraz, Sabalenka and Jabeur, who clearly do not need additional finance to enhance their careers.
Tennis should be open to the opportunities offered by Saudi investment, but it needs to ensure the soul of the sport is not sold in the process.
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