Andy Murray has reiterated he would never play on a Saudi Arabia-run tennis tour controversial wave defectors to the LIV golf series.
Golf has been rocked in recent months by the £2bn launch of the breakout series and last week Telegraph Sport revealed that Saudi Arabia is also trying to lure a women’s tour to their country.
There are previous examples of scheduled tennis events in the Gulf state. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were set to face off in Jeddah in 2018, before it was canceled due to their respective injuries.
But two-time Wimbledon champion Murray rejected a £1.5million offer to play friendlies in Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns. When asked if he would ever follow in this golfer’s footsteps and accept a “pocket full of money” to play on another tour, he was unequivocally against the idea.
“They did, they organized an event in Saudi Arabia a few years ago and I was offered to play there,” he said. “I know some of the other guys on the tour were offered to play there. I don’t think the field of play was going to be what they were hoping for. A lot of the, I’d say top players and bigger names turned it down And personally I wouldn’t play there.”
Murray’s comments came on the eve of Wimbledon, where he hopes to make an impact after several years thwarted by injury.
He seems to have recovered from the stomach problem that hampered his preparations in the past two weeks, and will open his campaign on Center Court against Australian James Duckworth on Monday.
His coach and eight-time grand champion Ivan Lendl was by his side during training sessions at the All England Club last week.
Lendl was part of Murray’s team during his most successful period, including all three of his big wins. They got back together in March in a last-ditch effort to revive Murray’s career, which was blighted by a hip injury that sidelined him for a long time between 2017 and 2020 and forced him to undergo resurfacing surgery.
Lendl’s abiding faith in Murray was a boost to his game, he said, when he defeated world number 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier this month to reach the final in Stuttgart. “I showed a few weeks ago that I still have good tennis in me,” he said. “I know the tennis is in it; I just have to bring it out during the event now. Having Ivan on my team helps. We’ve had a lot of success in the past. We know each other well. He still believes in Me. There there aren’t many coaches, people who have done it recently, and he has. That certainly helps me.”
During those years in the tennis wilderness, Murray revealed that a number of coaches turned down offers to work with him – a pain point he uses as motivation. “It didn’t hurt me. In many ways it has been a motivation. [I] rejected by many coaches. That, of course, was difficult to deal with. That’s also why I’m grateful that Ivan came back to work with me and help me try to achieve what I want to achieve.”
Djokovic uses US Open ban as Wimbledon motivation
Meanwhile, reigning champion Novak Djokovic said he took advantage of being not allowed to play the US Open – for not being vaccinated – as extra motivation to enter Wimbledon.
At present, US law prohibits any unvaccinated person from entering the country, and Djokovic said on Saturday he had no plans to change his vaccination status. It means Wimbledon could be his last chance to win a major this year.
“Yes, of course, I am aware of that. That is an extra motivation to do well here,” he said. “Hopefully I can have a really good tournament, like I’ve done in the last three editions. Then it’s just a matter of waiting. I would really like to go to States. But as of today, that’s not possible. There’s not much more I can do. I mean, it’s really up to the US government to decide whether or not to let unvaccinated people into the country.”
Top division Djokovic is looking for his fourth consecutive title at the All England Club this year. He will face stiff competition from Rafael Nadal, who confirmed he woke up pain-free after undergoing radiofrequency ablation treatment on his chronically injured foot earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Taylor Fritz took the men’s title in Eastbourne on Saturday, while Petra Kvitova won in the women’s singles.