Tennis is rising in popularity in Saudi Arabia


Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has swiftly positioned itself as a dominant force in global sports, not only solidifying its status as an international sporting hub but also serving as a central hub for diverse activities and events. From athletics, football, F1, boxing, basketball, to golf, various sports are driving unprecedented socio-economic transformation as part of Vision 2030.

These sports are not just enhancing lives and promoting well-being but are also creating fresh prospects, enabling individuals to explore their interests, chase aspirations, and realize their potential.

Tennis stands out as a significant contributor to Saudi Arabia’s sports advancement, witnessing widespread growth and popularity across the nation. A key figure spearheading this movement is Arij Almutabagani, the President of the Saudi Tennis Federation. Since assuming her role in 2021, she has been leading the STF’s initiatives to nurture the sport at all levels, establishing sturdy foundations for the prosperous future of tennis and its stakeholders.

Almutabagani’s primary emphasis is on fostering a dynamic junior tennis environment. With 63 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population exceeding 32 million being under the age of 30 and national sports participation currently at 50 percent, she is steadfast in her belief that tennis can capitalize on the opportunities available to the Kingdom’s youth.

“Our strategy revolves around nurturing young talent, developing infrastructure, and investing in grassroots initiatives, acknowledging the pivotal role of youth in ensuring the enduring success of any sport,” she conveyed. “We are confidently on the right path, and our approach is yielding positive results with a noticeable surge in both interest and participation.”

Almutabagani’s claims are validated by impressive statistics. Currently, Saudi Arabia proudly hosts 177 tennis clubs, reflecting a remarkable 146 percent increase since 2019. Over the past four years, the number of registered players has surged by 46 percent, reaching 2,300, while U14 players have doubled, growing from 500 to over 1,000.

The STF organizes 40 national tournaments annually, including the hosting of three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year, marking the return of ITF events since 2022. Almutabagani emphasized notable advancements, such as the integration of tennis into the school physical education curriculum earlier this year.

In collaboration with the Saudi Sports For All Federation, the STF introduced “Tennis For All” in 2022, a 16-week mass participation program that successfully introduced tennis to over 13,000 people in its inaugural edition, with an anticipated higher turnout in 2023.

In April, “Tennis For All” became part of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum in 90 public schools. STF trained 170 physical education teachers, leading to a surge in participation to an estimated 30,000 people.

Almutabagani outlined ambitious plans, targeting 200 schools in 2024 and 400 by 2025, supporting sustained growth through the launch of more tennis academies and the establishment of additional national tennis centers. Currently, the Kingdom boasts 505 coaches and 182 officials, with plans to broaden opportunities for more individuals to engage in tennis.

Acting as a pivotal force in the ongoing transformation of sports, Saudi Arabia is presently hosting its debut professional tennis competition—the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. This global, contemporary, and innovative tournament features the world’s top U21 players, and the finals are unfolding at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City until December 2.

Officially sanctioned by the ATP Tour and orchestrated by STF, this historic event marks the beginning of a five-year contract, showcasing the zenith of young global tennis talent in the Kingdom. Ammar Alhogbani, Saudi Arabia’s leading male tennis player, has trained with and competed against some of the eight players participating in the Next Gen ATP Finals.

He remarked, “The growth of tennis in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabians has been exceptional in recent years, and I’m fortunate to be a small part of it. Having the first sanctioned ATP event in our own backyard is an incredibly exciting aspect of our future.”

Looking ahead, the value of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is undergoing an annual growth rate of 8 percent, projected to reach $3.3 billion by 2024—a significant increase of $1.2 billion from 2018. Remarkably, substantial investments totaling $2 billion are dedicated to nurturing sports growth by 2024. Almutabagani underscored, “Tennis will emerge as a noteworthy component of Saudi’s future sports event industry, and this event marks the inception of numerous professional tennis tournaments we plan to host. We eagerly look forward to welcoming tennis enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and beyond to witness the thrilling matches and immerse themselves in the innovation and excitement brought by the Next Gen ATP Finals to Jeddah.”


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