Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been urged to use an upcoming exhibition match in Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to lend their support to human rights causes.
The world’s top-two ranked players will square off against one another at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City on December 22.
Human rights in Saudi Arabia have been thrust into the spotlight as evidence mounts that the Middle Eastern state is responsible for the murder of a dissident journalist.
Djokovic and Nadal have both said they’re looking forward to visiting the country for the first time – with both men set to pocket more than $1-million for the match.
However, Amnesty International says the pair’s visit provides a perfect opportunity for the global stars to lend their support to an important cause.
“It’s not for us to say which countries should and shouldn’t be hosting sporting competitions, but it’s also clear that countries like Saudi Arabia are well aware of the potential for sport to subtly ‘rebrand’ a country,” Allan Hogarth of Amnesty International told the Times.
“It’s up to Nadal and Djokovic where they play their lucrative exhibition matches, but if they go to Jeddah we’d like to see them using their profiles to raise human rights issues.
“Tweeting support for Saudi Arabia’s brave human rights defenders would be a start.”
Djokovic is on a roll heading into the tail end of the season after claiming the Shanghai Masters title to extend his unbeaten run to 18 matches.
The Serb overtook Roger Federer as the World No.2 and now has the number one ranking in his sights.
“I couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Djokovic said.
“I am very close to Rafael Nadal in the rankings and I have put myself in a very good position for the last period of the year.
“The game is working really well and ending a year as number one will definitely be the biggest achievement of this year.”
Pique hopeful of signing big guns up to revamped Davis Cup
Gerard Pique is confident Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will play in the revamped Davis Cup next year and says he has “not closed any doors” on Roger Federer being involved.
The Barcelona and Spain defender is the president and founder of Kosmos, the company promoting the new format to the competition.
Under the much-changed structure for 2019, an 18-team event will be condensed into one week in November, featuring six groups of three, with the pool winners and two best runners-up advancing to a knockout phase.
Rather than ties consisting of four singles and one doubles match, played over five sets, the truncated version will see only three-set affairs, each tie comprising two singles and one doubles contest.
November is traditionally the month when top players begin their time off at the end of the season, while the ATP World Team Cup is expected to take place in Australia early in 2020.
However, Pique remains confident that the sport’s biggest names – Nadal, Federer and Novak Djokovic – will feature.
“I have spoken with all those players,” he told a media conference.
“With Rafa [Nadal] it is very positive. If he does not have an injury, he will be there. Rafa is very positive about this event, especially because it is taking place in Madrid.
“If the number one in the world is playing, that’s more than enough.
“On Novak [Djokovic], if he has to choose between the two, he says he will play the ATP tournament. I took the opportunity to talk to him because he represents the players and the meeting was very positive. I am confident we can reach an agreement.
“Federer is at a point in his career in which he prioritises the most important tournaments. I have talked with his people and I have not closed any doors.”