Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic cancel planned exhibition match in Saudi Arabia

A planned exhibition match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Saudi Arabia has been called off.

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Rafa and Nole were due to take part in a one-off exhibition contest in Jeddah on December 22. They committed to the event over a year ago and were under pressure to pull out after Amnesty International condemned the plans following the recent death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Serb told BBC Sport on Friday:

Nadal is injured, so the match is not happening this year.

Thankfully, the exhibition match is finally cancelled. And let’s be honest we all know it’s not just because of Rafa’s injury and Nole is likely to face more questions about the situation in the coming days. Anyway, it was a safe excuse to do the right thing.

Source: BBC


26 thoughts on “Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic cancel planned exhibition match in Saudi Arabia

  1. Rafa fan 1

    I just hope that Rafa is fit to play and it’s not too early.
    Yes, just watched a bit of the Nitto WTF match Nole vs zverev and saw fans with banners reading we miss you Rafa.
    As much as I love the game it’s just not the same without Rafa.



  2. Margo

    Regarding Rafa’s cancellation of the exhibition match with Nole, I won a large bet on how it would unfold, it’s dénouement as they say in French.

    Lorna, I must say, though, to confirm Mubadala so soon after pulling out of Saudi Arabia does seem like a bold move on Rafa’s part.

    OR, perhaps Rafa felt Mubadala couldn’t be kept secret until much later and as such he decided to control the conversation by announcing it himself.

    OR, Rafa knows he won’t be ready to play before Mubadala.

    OR, he’s giving the Saudis the flip.

    OR, who knows….

    All we fans can do is speculate because the only ones who know anything are Team Rafa.


    1. I’ll believe he’s playing Mubadala when he actually does. This seems to happen at the start of every year. I hope he’s absolutely fine by then, but I’ll believe it when I see it. And I really hope it was meant as a subtle message to the Saudis.


  3. Lorna

    I’ve been watching the Nitto WTF and i must say that most of the matches I’ve seen so far have been disappointing and one sided. The matches are flat and lacking in excitement, so i haven’t given the tournament my full attention. It’s not the same without Rafa as wiin or lose, he always brings a match to life with his energy. I miss you champ!


    1. I think I’ve cursed the World Tour Finals by getting tickets for the semis! I was desperately hoping to see Rafa, and also hoping to see del Potro, and they both got injured before the tournament even started. Then I thought, OK, maybe I’ll get to see Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev … but Thiem’s having a nightmare and now it doesn’t look like Sascha’ll qualify either. I must be a jinx!


  4. Lorna

    The news us out that Rafa and Novak have confirmed their participation in the Mubadala Championships in Abu Dhabi commencing 27th December, less than a week after their withdrawal from Saudi Arabia. Any sceptics in the house or does anyone care?


    1. Alex

      Oh, interesting. Thanks for updating us. I really hope that’s enough injury recovery time for him :-/ Maybe he feels he needs a spot of hard court practice before the Jan season.

      What do you feel there is to be sceptical about?


      1. Lorna

        To be honest Alex, I’m just relieved that Rafa won’t be playing in Saudi Arabia. I know some will find it strange that he’ll be fit enough to play just five days later, but as Margo said, who knows? It would be funny if it was a fingers up to the Saudis, but i know that wouldn’t be Rafa’s intention. He definitely needs pre-season match practice (body permitting), so it’s his prerogative as to when he gets back to action and if it’s Mubadala then great! Rafa will certainly try his hardest not to let down that tournament.
        In the meantime, i wish Kevin the best of luck for the rest of the WTF, as i’d love him to win 😁.


  5. Leigh

    Totally unrelated, sorry, but do any fellow Rafa fans know where to get his official 2019 calendar please? Can’t find it on the usual site and can’t live without it. Thanks.


  6. Geraldine Monier

    The Serb always has to put his two cents of nonsense thought into everything! Obviously, it is the Amnesty International pressure which bears upon cancellation of this match, which was in the planning one year ago. Last year the Serb, struggling to stay in any match was lucky not to have Rafa in his pathetic path! So, why try to spin nonsense stories out of air? Get a life, Serb!


  7. marileena

    As most know Rafa made this commitment over a year ago to play this exhibition in Saudi Arabia.
    And a year later…times are ever changing. I never expected him to make a political statement and get involved in pulling out of the tournament because of what happened to the journalist. Not yet…. His recent surgery ends that speculation…decision is made…and that’s good enough for me…


  8. Isabel Lee

    It is unwise for athletes who travel the world to make strong political statements. This is a very volatile situation. Federer was threatened at one venue not too long ago, and, of course, there was the Monica Seles incident. No doubt Rafael has advisors who travel with him.


  9. Elizabeth Howard

    I think that Rafa has a very good social conscience and thinks about issues. He is well informed and had made strong statements on several things. He knows when to resist comment too. He has been mentioned as someone who would be welcomed to get involved in politics. Heaven forbid!
    Inside tennis he has made a contribution to changes as part of the player body. Look at the increase in money for players who lose in the first round. He and other top players advocated for this. I am amused that someone said that Federer is more diplomatic! Not convinced about that, Yes he too has advocated for better conditions.


    1. Alex

      Hi Elizabeth,

      It was me who commented that Federer appears more diplomatic than Rafa. That’s not necessarily a compliment; just an observation of styles and approaches. It’s not about the good they’ve done or the improvements they’ve advocated. It’s about their communication styles. Of course, I don’t really know; I’m not there on the tour with them.

      My main point in this thread was to say that I think someone can criticise Rafa, and remain his fan. I resist the assumption that any criticism means someone is stripped of their fan status! To me, being a fan doesn’t mean having to agree with every opinion Rafa holds or action he takes. I’d like to be free to disagree with Rafa without being censored for somehow being disloyal.

      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Rosie

    This match should have been cancelled when the Saudi killing first hit the news. They have taken the easy way out and am not impressed with Nadal’s lack of backbone. Disappointing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Darrell

      Neither of these two tennis greats are political in nature and haven’t let such things enter into the sport generally speaking. So, Rosie, why don’t you take your sour grapes somewhere else.


      1. Alex

        Dear Darrell,

        I agree that Rafa is not political in nature. Inside tennis, he doesn’t advocate for things in a political way; instead he tends to go head-on with his views. Nothing wrong with that; just not very “diplomatic” in the same way e.g. Federer has been. Outside tennis, he declines to give opinions about what’s happening in his own and other countries.

        But I understand, by contrast, that Djokovic *is* known for being political, both inside and outside of tennis. He’s expressed clear views about his homeland, and has long been discussed as a potential politician after his tennis career. I don’t have one source for this; it’s a general impression that has built up over years of reading journalism. If you have contrary sources, I’m interested.

        I would certainly like to have been a fly on the wall for those two teams’ discussions about this issue. As a fan, I lack any real insight.

        Best wishes,


    2. Elizabeth Howard

      Rosie, lack of ” backbone ” has never has never been an issue with Rafa. He has spoken out about a lot of important things. The exhibition in Saudi was not a political event but a sporting one> Personally I think it should be cancelled but more importantly what has the world done about this atrocious killing. Very little.
      I guess you are not a Rafa fan, Rafa is a man of integrity


    3. Alex

      Hi Rosie,

      I see your point of view. I don’t know if you are a Rafan or not – but if you are then I still think it’s fine for you to criticise him on a point of disagreement. Rafa’s just a person, not a manifesto. Sometimes he will do things which appear wrong to some of us. It might be that they are wrong and we would have made a different decision with the same facts. Or maybe they aren’t and we don’t fully understand the situation like he does. Or maybe it’s subjective and he’s just reached a different conclusion to us. In any case, speaking out against him is fine in my opinion. We are all individuals and it’s healthy for us to have a variety of views.

      Best wishes to you,

      Liked by 1 person

    4. anthony Lambert

      Its not a lack of backbone as you say,Rafa most likely didn’t know what to do because of the conflicting and confusing stories over several weeks surrounding the disappearance of the journalist. Everyone is confused about the facts.
      After carefully reflecting on the situation I would have thought he would have pulled out of the match ,he’s that kind of guy but he should have done so earlier because of the injury anyway.


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