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Asia

Saudi Arabia ‘targets acquisition’ of Madrid, Miami Opens

Featured image credit: A.J. Lipp/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks to further enhance its sports investment portfolio by acquiring one of the leading tennis tournaments outside of the four grand slams, either the Madrid Open or Miami Open.

Both tournaments are top tier ATP Tour Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 events on the calendars of the men’s and women’s tours, with representatives of the country’s investment funds making takeover pitches to secure one of them, according to The Athletic, citing four people with knowledge of the discussions. 

The tournaments are owned by IMG, the sports and entertainment agency that is part of the Endeavor group. Saudi officials are said to have been in talks with top tennis executives for more than a year about multiple potential investments, with inroads having already been made.

In August, Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City was announced as the host venue for the Next Gen ATP Finals for the next five years. This year’s event, taking place from November 28 to December 2, will mark the first official professional tennis tournament to take place in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi has also long been linked with a long-term deal to host the WTA Finals. This year’s Finals are currently taking place with the WTA having this week been forced to defend its decision to stage the season-ending event in the Mexican city of Cancún after several players criticised the quality of the facilities at the Plaza Quintana Roo. The WTA only announced Cancún as the host of the event last month under a one-year deal.

IMG last year completed the acquisition of the Madrid Open. In May 2022, Madrid Destino, the culture, tourism, venues and events body for the Spanish capital’s council, announced plans for a new 10,000-capacity indoor arena at La Caja Mágica, home of the Madrid Open.

The arena is scheduled to open in 2025 and will cost €18m (£15.7m/$19.2m) to build. The project will be co-financed by the city council and Madrid Trophy Promotion, which organises the Madrid Open.

The plans were announced after Madrid secured a new long-term deal in September 2021 to continue hosting the Madrid Open until at least 2030. The deal included a commitment to developing a new court with a capacity of between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators.

The Miami Open entered a new era in 2019 as it took place at Hard Rock Stadium for the first time. A deal was struck in December 2017 for the tournament to be held at the home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team after doubts emerged over its future at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne, where it had been held since 1987.

The stadium complex was fitted with a permanent campus comprising 30 courts, headlined by a 14,000-seat stadium court built within Hard Rock Stadium itself.