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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - RIYADH — The Diriyah Tennis Cup champion Daniil Medvedev is calling for Saudi Arabia’s first tennis tournament to become a regular stop on the tour, insisting the event has the makings of becoming one of the sport’s best.
World No. 5 Medvedev came out on top in the weekend’s history-making event played out at the stunning Diriyah Arena.
The tournament, organized by BSG Sports Group, welcomed eight of the world’s best players, who competed for the lion’s share of a $3m prize purse across three-days of thrilling hard-court tennis, held in the same 15,000-seater arena that hosted the epic Clash On The Dunes boxing bout just a week earlier.
It offered a thrilling spectacle, with Medvedev — the 23-year-old Russian predicted by many to be the player set to break Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s stranglehold on the sport — seeing off the challenges of David Goffin, Jan-Lennard Struff and finalist Fabio Fognini en route to his $1m title win.
Scheduled just a month before the season opening Australian Open, the eight players viewed the first-time tournament as ideal preparation for their 2020 campaigns — and a way of expanding the global appeal of tennis into a new fanbase.
Speaking after the final, Medvedev admitted that the players had been just as enthralled by the tournament as the local support, insisting that the Diriyah Tennis Cup has all the ingredients needed to go on to become one of the standout Tour events.
He said: “I really loved everything here – organization, court, fans, people. Everything was super great and hopefully it’s not going to stop and I’m going to come back next year. I think in three or four years it could be one of the best tournaments on Tour.”
Having created the event as a means of growing tennis in the Kingdom as part of the wider Vision 2030 strategy to further promote healthy and active lifestyles, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), confirmed that plans for the tournament’s return in 2020 were already under way.
“This is only the start of tennis in our country but what an incredible start,” he said. “Already in a single week huge strides have been made and the sport has earned a place in the hearts of so many, young and old, boys and girls. I am extremely proud that a perfect platform has been built for tennis to grow.
“When we pictured staging an international event, the scenes here today are exactly what we hoped for. World-class tennis being played to a full stadium and players made to feel right at home.
“I know this will have inspired a lot of people to pick up a racket, including myself! Already we are discussing plans for an even bigger and better 2020 edition.”
World No. 11 David Goffin gave a similar view, emphasizing how truly impressed he was by every aspect of the debut tournament, which also featured Stan Wawrinka, John Isner, Gaël Monfils and Lucas Pouille.
“To have a tournament like this in the middle of pre-season is very good,” said the Belgian. “It was great. The fans were super excited to see professional tennis here. The atmosphere was super nice on center court. I hope to come back next year for what will hopefully be an even better tournament for me.”
Asked if he could see the Diriyah Tennis Cup as being a regular fixture on his Tour calendar, he said: “Of course. It is very easy to access here. Dubai and Doha have big tournaments, so why not here too? I think they have everything here to have a good tournament, so why not? I think they are ready.”
From the perspective of BSG Sports Group, who ran the tournament beside the GSA, Co-Chairman Peter-Michael Reichel said: “We loved the hospitality and the warm welcoming in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This applies also for the players.
“We all were welcomed with open arms, and the players enjoyed their time in the Kingdom and really liked the perfect conditions on court. The people in Saudi Arabia really got excited about having live tennis in their home country.” — SG
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