ATP ‘won’t be able’ to punish Novak Djokovic and co as ‘rules bent’ for new Saudi event | Tennis | Sport

The Six Kings Slam has drawn attention for its unusual placement in the calendar, as it will take place in October – a busy period in the ATP calendar. There are two Masters 1000s in Shanghai and Paris, two ATP 500s in Basel and Vienna, and three 250-point events lined up during the month.

It means that Djokovic and his five rivals will have to forgo an official tournament in favour of playing the lucrative exhibition tournament, which is being staged during Riyadh Season 2024. It’s a move that often carries a punishment for players on the tour, but the Six Kings Slam has already found a simple workaround to avoid issues for those involved.

According to The Telegraph, the answer is a two-day on, one-day off format, meaning players will only compete for less than three days and can avoid breaking ATP protocol. In the tour’s official rulebook for 2024, players cannot qualify for “Platinum Benefits” if they compete in what is deemed a “Qualified Non-Covered Event.”

A non-covered event includes any which involves a top 100 player – with five of the six at the Six Kings Slam currently sitting in the top 10 – and lasts “three or more consecutive days within a seven-day period.” If players break these rules, they will not be eligible for benefits including bonus money pools, retirement programmes, and financial security plans, and they cannot vote or participate in ATP governance. 

As well as the schedule rule-bending, the Six Kings Slam will need to pick the right week in October, as separate ATP rules ban top-30 players from competing in unofficial events in the same week as Masters 1000 and ATP 500 tournaments. It means that the likely date for the Riyadh exhibition will be the week of October 14, when there are only three ATP 250 events being played.

The six-man Saudi event was recently left in jeopardy when Nadal picked up a new muscle injury in Brisbane and pulled out of the Australian Open. According to the Saudi Tennis Federation, the Six Kings Slam was originally scheduled for February, when there are only 500 and 250-point tournaments being played on the tour.

But the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s injury forced organisers to postpone until October, a schedule agreed upon by all involved. Nadal is one of five Major champions competing in the new tournament alongside 24-time Major winner Djokovic, two-time Slam champ Alcaraz, 2021 US Open winner Medvedev and Sinner, who recently lifted the Australian Open crowd. World No. 7 and young star Rune completes the line-up.

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