Spanish tennis icon Rafael Nadal has been appointed as the ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF), underscoring the kingdom’s potential to emerge as a sporting powerhouse. Nadal, with 22 Grand Slam titles, expressed his enthusiasm for contributing to the growth and progress evident throughout Saudi Arabia.
“In every corner of Saudi Arabia, you see growth and progress, and I am delighted to be a part of it,” remarked the 37-year-old tennis maestro in a statement released by the STF. Despite a recent setback in the ATP tournament in Brisbane and a subsequent withdrawal from the Australian Open due to a muscle tear, Nadal remains committed to his passion for tennis and his desire to aid its global development.
In his role as ambassador, Nadal will spend time in the kingdom annually, focusing on nurturing national tennis talent and establishing a new Rafa Nadal Academy, as outlined by the federation. The tennis champion, who recently visited a tennis academy in Riyadh, expressed his dedication to inspiring young enthusiasts to pick up a racket and embrace the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Saudi Arabia has strategically employed sports, including Formula 1, Moto GP, LIV Golf, football (a candidate for the 2034 World Cup hosting), and now tennis, as elements to diversify its economy and enhance its global reputation. Hosting its first ATP tournament, the Next Gen in Jeddah, in 2023, the kingdom demonstrated its commitment to making tennis a significant part of its international calendar, highlighted by a five-year contract with the ATP for the Next Gen.
Nadal’s association with the Saudi Tennis Federation aligns with the nation’s broader objectives of leveraging sports to reduce dependence on oil and cultivate a positive international image. As Nadal looks ahead to the clay court season as a key goal for the year, his ambassadorial role signifies a partnership with Saudi Arabia in fostering tennis development and instilling a love for the sport among the country’s youth.