Martina Navratilova questions players' decision to switch WTA Finals

Martina Navratilova has criticised the decision to move the WTA finals (Getty Images for Laureus)
Martina Navratilova has criticised the decision to move the WTA finals (Getty Images for Laureus)

Martina Navratilova has questioned the WTA’s decision to go to Saudi Arabia for the end-of-year finals.

Earlier this year, Navratilova and Chris Evert warned the tour to stay out of Saudi in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post. Despite their objections, the WTA announced earlier this month that Riyadh would play host to the lucrative event at the end of the current season.

Laureus Academy member Navratilova said: “We’re going to Saudi Arabia which is about as big a change as you can make except for maybe going to North Korea. Chris Evert and I have made our views clear on that.

“We’re not playing so the players made their choice. And I honour that. We both do. I just wanted to make sure they made the decision not in a vacuum, that they knew what they were getting into.

“One of the comments I heard, one of the players said they ‘don’t want to be political’. Going to Saudi is about as political as you can get.

“Welcome to sport. Sport is political. Sport has been at the forefront of social change. I don’t see how anything happens there without the blessing of MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman]. He decides what goes and what doesn’t.”

The WTA deal will see Riyadh play host to the finals from 2024 to 2026. When announcing it, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said it was an “exciting new opportunity for us and a positive step for the long-term growth of women’s tennis as a global and inclusive sport”.

Ons Jabeur was the first leading player to publicly back the move, saying how “women are getting more and more rights” and that it was “time to give the opportunity to women who dream of being tennis players”.

But Navratilova said she was sceptical that the WTA and its players could act as a catalyst for change in the country.

She said: “We’re a bit egotistical to think we can make a difference but who knows. Maybe this is a good thing, we’ll see how this goes. The players have to honour that, they’re the ones competing.

“We’re not affected by it. We’re not going there to play. We’ll see how things work out. There’s a big change happening right now and maybe more will come in the future.”

The 25th Laureus World Sports Awards take place on Monday evening in Madrid. To find out more, and follow the ceremony, visit