Gay tennis players guaranteed safety in Saudi Arabia


The decision to host the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia for the next three years remains a controversial topic within the tennis community. However, there is a growing acceptance among players regarding the new location, largely due to assurances they have received regarding their safety concerns, including those related to sexual orientation.

Daria Kasatkina

Daria Kasatkina, currently ranked 11th in the world and in a relationship with figure skater Natalia Zabiiako, recently spoke to the BBC, stating that she had been “given guarantees” about feeling comfortable and safe in Riyadh should she qualify for the season-ending championships.

Talking to the press at the Mutua Madrid Open, Kasatkina emphasized the growing interest in sports in Saudi Arabia, particularly among young people and women. “We see that the Saudis now are very into the sport, they want to develop the sport,” she noted. “As long as it gives the opportunity to the people there, and the young kids and the women to actually see the sport – so that they can watch it, they can play it, they can participate in this, I think it’s great.”

This marks a shift from her previous reservations about the WTA Finals being held in Saudi Arabia, which she expressed during Wimbledon last year, citing “many issues concerning this country.”

In response to the Human Rights Watch’s observations that LGBT individuals in Saudi Arabia must practice extreme self-censorship to navigate daily life, Arij Almutabagani, the president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, asserted that gay players would not be required to alter their behavior compared to how they conduct themselves in neighboring countries like the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, where WTA tournaments are already held.

Ons Jabeur

WTA chief executive Steve Simon has revealed that representatives of the LGBTQ+ community were included on fact-finding trips to Saudi Arabia before the deal for the WTA Finals was finalized.

Ons Jabeur, Tunisia’s top-ranked tennis player and the highest-ranked African and Arab player in WTA and ATP history, has reaffirmed her support for the new location of the tournament. Last year, Jabeur made history by becoming the first player to represent a Saudi-owned apparel brand when she signed with Kayanee. Expressing her pride in Saudi Arabia’s progress, Jabeur stated, “As an Arab woman, I’m very proud some things are moving there in Saudi.”

Jabeur echoed Princess Reema’s sentiment, inviting people to visit Saudi Arabia and experience the environment firsthand before forming judgments. She emphasized that participation in the tournament is not just about playing tennis but also about providing opportunities for young women to see their role models and believe in their own potential.

Riyadh will be the host city for the WTA Finals from 2024 to 2026. The agreement includes a record-breaking prize money of $15.25 million for the 2024 tournament, with additional increases slated for 2025 and 2026.


  1. This is ridiculous. It is not about the safety of gay players in Saudi, it is about the safety of ALL gay people in Saudi. And journalists, and women, and any one who opposes the government. That is, not very safe at all. Everyone keeps going on about how things are “improving” in Saudi, and women are “allowed” to do more things now, as if that makes it all right. Well it isn’t. As long as you are still “allowing” women to do some of the things men can do as a matter of course, you have a problem.

  2. If we are needing to have ‘conversations’ to guarantee the safety of athletes, than it is not appropriate to be hosting events in that nation. ‘Providing opportunities for young women’? I wonder what the incarcerated women of the Dar Al Reaya, locked up for ‘crimes’ such as opposing their male guardians, reporting abuse, rejecting forced marriages, would say in response to the ‘opportunities’ they’ve been provided.
    An absolute farce the WTA are hosting a tournament in Saudi.

  3. The fact that the WTA would put gay and LGBTQ players, support teams, and even their own staff in this situation is baffling to me. Even the fact that they have had to tell LGBTQ people “they are safe” and they are “allowed to share a hotel room with their partner” shows how much of a red flag this is. WTA completely sold out to their highest bidder, so lets just call a spade a spade.


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