Saudi Arabia to host major snooker event for first time

Saudi Arabia announced it will host a World Snooker Tour event for the first time in 2020 in Riyadh, as part of the 2020/21 World Snooker Tour calendar. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 December 2019

Saudi Arabia to host major snooker event for first time

  • Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will be held in Riyadh from October 4-10
  • The tournament will include all 128 Tour players

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with World Snooker to host a ranking event for the first time after signing a 10-year deal with the sport’s governing body.
The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will be held in Riyadh from October 4-10 with total prize money of £2.5 million ($3.29 million) as part of the 2020-21 World Snooker Tour calendar.
Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority chairman Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki said: “This partnership adds further to our hosting of a diverse range of international sports in Saudi Arabia.
“Having held motorsport and boxing events in recent months, and with tennis and equestrian events to follow, we are thrilled to add the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, which will see world-class snooker played in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020.”

He added that the GSA aims to provide opportunities for audiences in the Kingdom and the region to “see the world’s best,” with hopes to inspire and encourage more participation in the sport.
The tournament will include all 128 Tour players and the world’s top 32 will enter at the third-round stage, with four local players competing in the first round.
Prince Abdulaziz also said that as part of the agreement, they will work with one of the world’s leading sporting events company to host programs in schools and universities to encourage youth to play snooker. 
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said on Sunday that snooker has grown to such an extent that they are able to create “exceptional tournaments at this level,” adding that the calendar for the coming year is jam-packed.
“This is a giant leap forward for our sport. We have enjoyed tremendous global expansion over the past decade, particularly in Asia and Europe and we are thrilled to stage a new and momentous tournament in the Middle East,” 
Hearn added: “For the fans in Saudi Arabia, it is a wonderful opportunity to see the best players in the world competing for a huge title. We look forward to working with our partners on delivering a huge event.”
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association said that one of their biggest ambitions is to bring snooker to every corner of the planet.
“This is a step of huge significance. It gives us a firm footprint in the Middle East and we believe this will be the beginning of a boom for our sport in the region.”
Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, CEO of CBX, the official event promoter said the agreement between GSA and World Snooker is a great opportunity to bolster the popularity and awareness of snooker at a grass roots level in the Kingdom. 
In cooperation with Matchroom, a sport event promotions company founded by Hearn, CBX will work with schools and clubs throughout the Kingdom to develop snooker as a sport. 
“This competition provides the perfect motivational platform for aspiring snooker players throughout the Kingdom,” said Boutagy.
Saudi Arabia has been hosting major international sporting events as part of its Vision 2030, which aims to transform the Kingdom into a major tourist destination and economic hub.
Last month, the Kingdom launched the Diriyah Season, a month of sports which kicked off with the Formula E and the Diriyah Tennis Cup, featuring eight of the best men’s players on the planet.
It also included the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line and the Clash of the Dunes, which saw Britain’s Anthony Joshua win the world boxing heavyweight titles against Andy Ruiz on Saturday.

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

Updated 25 January 2020

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.