Nadal to serve as ambassador for Saudi Tennis Federation

Nadal to serve as ambassador for Saudi Tennis Federation

, / 03:12 PM January 17, 2024

Rafael Nadal Saudi Tennis

FILE–Rafael Nadal of Spain. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia— Rafael Nadal will serve as an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation, part of a recent effort by the kingdom to make inroads into tennis and other sports.

Nadal, a 37-year-old from Spain who owns 22 Grand Slam titles, currently is missing the Australian Open 2024 while recovering from a muscle tear near his surgically repaired hip. He had hoped to return to Grand Slam action at Melbourne Park after missing nearly all of 2023.

Nadal’s new role, announced Monday, includes promoting tennis in Saudi Arabia and plans for a Rafa Nadal Academy there.

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“Everywhere you look in Saudi Arabia, you can see growth and progress and I’m excited to be part of that,” the 37-year-old Spaniard, winner of 22 Grand Slams, said in a federation press release.

“I continue to play tennis as I love the game. But beyond playing I want to help the sport grow far and wide across the world and in Saudi there is real potential.”

READ: Saudi money could be headed to tennis next

Nadal recently visited a junior tennis clinic in Riyadh, and his new role will involve “dedicated time in the kingdom each year” to grow the sport as well as the development of a new Rafa Nadal Academy, the Saudi federation said on Monday.

It signals yet another step into tennis for the kingdom, which is hosting the men’s tour’s Next Gen ATP Finals for top 21-and-under players in Jedda through 2027. The women’s tour has been in talks to place its season-ending WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia.

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Rights groups say women continue to face discrimination in most aspects of family life in the kingdom, and homosexuality is a major taboo, as it is in most of the rest of the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has worked to get himself out of international isolation since the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. He also clearly wants to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and reduce its reliance on oil.

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