International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

of Switzerland is among the players who will take part in the event. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 09 October 2019

International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

  • First event of its kind in Saudi Arabia has $3m prize money
  • Stan Wawrinka and Daniil Medvedev will take part in the hardcourt, outdoor tournament

RIYADH: The first international tennis tournament to be held in the Kingdom is a “watershed moment” for the country, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has said.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is a hardcourt, outdoor tournament with a $3 million prize.

It will be held from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 on the outskirts of Riyadh and is attracting leading players, including three-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka and rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev. They have been confirmed alongside Fabio Fognini and David Goffin.

The prince, who is chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Hosting world class international tennis in Saudi Arabia for the very first time is another watershed moment for the Kingdom. There’s a deep passion for sport in Saudi Arabia and the Diriyah Tennis Cup will see us reaching new tennis fans, welcome even more international visitors as well as creating amazing memories for all.”

Wawrinka’s career highlights include three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and Davis Cup victory.

Medvedev is enjoying a breakthrough 2019 with three titles to his name and was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in last month’s US Open Final.

World number 12 Fognini was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo while Goffin, from Belgium, is a former world number seven.

The remaining four players will be announced later, completing the lineup. 

The 15,000-capacity Diriyah Arena will provide an intimate setting for the event, allowing tennis fans and newcomers to the sport to get up and close to the world’s very best players.

The tournament forms part of Ad Diriyah Season. It includes the Diriyah E-Prix, the “Clash On The Dunes” heavyweight boxing rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

There are many other entertainment and cultural activities over a month-long period from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21.

Peter-Michael Reichel, co-chairman of Basel Sports Group, said: “The eyes of the tennis world will be on Saudi Arabia in December with some of the very biggest names in global tennis battling for the first-ever Diriyah Tennis Cup. The stunning UNESCO world heritage site in Diriyah will arguably be the most unique venue in tennis.”

The Diriyah Tennis Cup will work alongside the Saudi Tennis Federation to use the tournament as an opportunity to inspire Saudi players, new fans and followers of the game.

Cup tickets will be available at www.diriyahseason.sa while the latest news can be found on social media platforms: @diriyahseason. 

International travelers can apply for their tourist visa at www.visitsaudi.com.

Ad Diriyah Season is one of 11 festivals aimed at transforming the Kingdom into an important global tourist destination. 


Neymar limps off as Brazil draw with Nigeria

Updated 14 October 2019

Neymar limps off as Brazil draw with Nigeria

  • The 27-year-old’s return to Champions League action may now be delayed

SINGAPORE: Neymar limped off injured early on as Brazil played out a 1-1 friendly draw against a spirited Nigeria at the Singapore National Stadium on Sunday.

The five-time world champions fell behind in the first half, but Casemiro's equalizer early in the second period prevented a loss but then  Brazil were unable to leave Southeast Asia with a victory by wasting chances, after also being held by Senegal on Thursday.

Brazil started well, with Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino firing just wide in the third minute after a smart turn near the penalty spot.

However, Brazil were dealt a major blow when Neymar limped off in the 12th minute with what appeared to be a left thigh problem — the Paris Saint-Germain striker replaced by Bayern Munich’s Philippe Coutinho to bring a premature end to his 101st international appearance.

Neymar's return to Champions League action may now be delayed, with PSG facing Club Brugge on Oct. 22 after the world’s most expensive player missed the first two games through suspension.

“During the match he felt a muscle injury, so I took him off as a precaution,” Brazil coach Tite said.

“Neymar did not have a muscle issue before the match. I would never start a player if they had a hint of a problem like this, I would never pay that price,” Tite added of the 27-year-old, who has suffered a string of injuries since his move from Barcelona to PSG in 2017.

“My career has taught me that I would never use a player if he was not in condition to play. It would be irresponsible of me to risk a player carrying an injury.”

Neymar will be disappointed he was unable to draw level with Brazil legend Ronaldo, who sits second in the country’s all-time scoring list behind Pele, on 62 international goals this week. But Nigeria provided resolute opposition by working hard to prevent the South Americans from forging many clear openings.

Gabriel Jesus, Firmino and Coutinho all went close for Brazil, but it was Nigeria who took the lead in the 35th minute when Joe Aribo burst through a gap in the South Americans' defence and skipped around Marquinhos before firing low past goalkeeper Ederson from close range.

The smart strike was the English-born player's second goal in two appearance for Nigeria after the Rangers midfielder scored on his debut against Ukraine last month.

A more determined Brazil needed just three minutes after the interval to draw level, however, as Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro slotted home after a Marquinhos header had rattled the crossbar following a well-worked corner.

Brazil ramped up the pressure as the match progressed, stretching the Nigeria defence with sharp passing and clever movement as Casemiro, Jesus and half-time substitute Richarlison all came close to giving their side the lead.

Tite's men poured forward in search of a winner with Coutinho guilty of wasting a glorious opportunity with five minutes remaining when the unmarked midfielder's weak effort was cleared off the line by Semi Ajayi.

"I thought it was a good match for us and we created plenty of chances but just could not get that second goal," Tite added. "We definitely missed Neymar's creativity after he went off."