Saudi Arabia gears up for upcoming multi-million-dollar Diriyah Tennis Cup

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John Isner. (Supplied)
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Lucas Pouille. (Supplied)
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Fabio Fogini. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

Saudi Arabia gears up for upcoming multi-million-dollar Diriyah Tennis Cup

  • The event will take place in Dec. 12 to 14
  • The tournament is part of the month-long Diriyah Season in the historic UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh

RIYADH: Two more big names in the tennis world were added to the star-studded lineup of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever international tennis tournament in December.

Big-serving American John Isner, with over 1000 aces this season, and five-time Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) champion Lucas Pouille of France, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year, will join the four players already confirmed for the showdown happening from Dec. 12 to 14 in Diriyah.

The pair will battle three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, the current world number four, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, talented world number 12 Fabio Fogini, who was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo, and highly rated David Goffin from Belgium, the former world number seven.

Two final star ‘wildcards’ are yet to be revealed. Three of the tennis stars sent video greetings to Saudi Arabia, expressing their excitement for the tournament. In one video greeting Fabio Fogini expressed his excitement, saying: “I am very happy to come to Saudi Arabia for the first time in my life to play in Diriyah Tennis Cup in December.”

He was joined by Goffin, who is also excited for his first visit to the Kingdom, saying: “I am looking forward to see you there Saudi Arabia.” Meanwhile Stan ‘the man’ Wawrinka, was feeling competitive, telling fans: “In the land of Kings and Heroes it is time to crown as a tennis champion.”

The tournament is part of the month-long Diriyah Season in the historic UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is taking place at the 15,000-seater Diriyah Arena being purpose built at the ancient site of the Kingdom’s first capital, known as the home of kings and heroes.

The tournament will happen just a week after the same venue plays host to the Clash On The Dunes, the world heavyweight title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua OBE.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

Updated 46 min 9 sec ago

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

  • Saudi International is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week
  • Second edition of the tournament, which is part of the European Tour

JEDDAH: The Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week from Jan. 30 — Feb. 2.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shared his thoughts about his chances ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club.

Q. You’re currently on the verge of breaking into the top 10 players to have spent longest at world #1. What does that mean to you and are records something you’re driven by?
Brooks Koepka: It’s great to be world number one, and I want to stay there but being number one is really a by-product of playing well, which is my first aim. There are lots of other world-class golfers playing well at the moment and this week is a good chance to win some valuable points to keep me at the top.

Q. Your often-discussed record in majors proves that you are a golfer who can play arguably his best golf under the greatest of pressures. Where do you think this coolness on the big stage comes from?
BK: I think it’s just because I am very competitive, and I love to win. No athlete plays a sport just to take part: everyone wants to win. That drives me to play my best golf when it really matters. I also work hard off the course so that I am as prepared as I can be when I get into the heat of competition.

Q. The Saudi International marks your second tournament back from injury (knee). How are you feeling heading into it?
BK: I’m feeling really good. It’s going to be my second tournament since October, so I am excited to get back on the course and compete against some of the world’s best players. It’s never a good thing being injured but I’ve come back from injury well before. In some ways it gives you a chance to recharge and start the new year fresh.

Q. Does an injury like the one you’ve experienced change your mindset when you return?
BK: I’m playing to win. Once I’m on the course, I forget everything else and just play golf. I didn’t play my best golf here last year so I’m ready for a strong finish in Saudi.

Q. How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bringing the game into a new market?
BK: It’s great to see the game growing worldwide and having played in Saudi Arabia last year, I know the positive effect the tournament had on the country.

Q. What do you hope to learn from Saudi Arabia during your time competing and how excited are you about playing in the tournament?
BK: I am really looking forward to playing at Royal Greens again as I thought the layout was really impressive. I hope my experience playing in this event last year will allow me to contend for this year’s title.

Q. More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
It’s great to see so many young people wanting to get into the game. If you enjoy watching it, you will certainly love playing it.

Q. What’s the ambition for 2020 after such strong seasons in 2018 and 2019?
Right now, I just want to get back playing. I’m looking forward to a strong season and being in contention in all of the tournaments I play in, which come September will put me in a strong position for the Ryder Cup. As far as I am concerned, the Saudi International is the most important tournament in front of me right now.

Q. Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
I think coming to a golf event is the best way to watch the game. You are part of the event, you can see exactly what the players are going through at any point. You can also follow your favorite golfers around the course all day, which sometimes the TV doesn’t do depending on who you want to follow.