Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, both playing in Paris Masters this week and fighting for the World No.1 ranking, say they are reevaluation their scheduled exhibition match in Saudi Arabia following condemnation of the country’s government.
The Saudi government has come under pressure over their alleged involvement in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. The exhibiton event, and other sporting activities, are reportedly held by the rulers as a means to curb negative public relations due to a poor human rights record.
Both the top tennis players were assumed to be receiving a seven-figure sum for playing, but questions were raised over the political message that would be sent following their appearance there.
Nadal said the off-season exhibition, scheduled for December 22, had been arranged a while ago, but was now being reconsidered though no decision had yet been made. “I had a commitment since one year to play there,” Nadal told press before the Paris Masters. “I know something happened very bad inside [the consulate] there. And my team is taking to them, to analyse the things. I hope the things will clarify as soon as possible.”
Serbia’s Djokovic, who is chasing the World No.1 ranking, added that he preferred not to get involved in the political controversy while admitting they would have to evaluate whether to play as scheduled.
“It’s unfortunate that we are both drawn into this right now,” he said. “I’m aware of what’s happening, and it’s sad, of course. I’ve been always trying to be very professional and respectful towards people that I have commitments with. We have to get more information on what’s happening so we can make a rational decision whether it’s good to go or not.”