RIYADH: International tennis star Fabio Fognini praised Diriyah Tennis Cup as a “great opportunity” for Saudis to attend a world class event live.
The 32-year-old, who recently moved up international tennis rankings to number 12, will be joining seven other leading players to battle it out for the inaugural edition of the $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco.
It will be the first international tennis tournament to be staged in Saudi Arabia.
“I think it is a great opportunity for the people of Saudi Arabia to be able to attend such world-class events live, and I believe it is good for the country as well,” Fognini said.
Fognini, who won the ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, believes the tournament will help tap into the growing interest in the game and drive up its popularity further.
“The Middle East is a region that has a lot of hunger for tennis and I believe we should be able to play in this region more often. It would help tennis develop and it would give players more opportunities,” he said.
The tournament takes place from December 12 to 14 in Diriyah, the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The cup will be staged at the purpose built 15,000-seater outdoor hard-court Diriyah Arena.
“It’s all different live; you hear the sounds of the game, which you miss on TV, and also the speed of the ball and the movement is completely different. [I think fans] will enjoy it!” said the 32-year-old.
Fognini will join a spectacular line-up of men’s tennis players next month for Diriyah Tennis Cup. Besides him will be three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka and the highly rated world No. 11 David Goffin of Belgium.
Big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, will also be present along with five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, who was an Australian Open semi-finalist this year.
Current world number five Daniil Medvedev wraps up the six confirmed names so far, with the final two names set to be announced in the coming weeks.
“It is a very competitive lineup. There are players with different styles. It will be interesting to see who will play better,” Fognini said of his competition in Diriyah.
The animated Italian, a popular character on the tour, is known for both his on-court antics and cheeky comments and has no intention in changing ahead of his debut in Saudi Arabia. “I am who I am, in the good and bad, I believe I show my emotions when I play, and this could me my weakness or my strength, but I think people also like to watch me play for that!”
Diriyah Tennis Cup is part of Diriyah Season, a month-long celebration of world-class sport and entertainment that kicks off with double-header of the futuristic Formula E race; followed by boxing world heavyweight title fight, dubbed Clash On The Dunes; then the Diriyah Tennis Cup; and elite Diriyah Equestrian Festival.