As of now, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic are still slated to play in a December exhibition in Saudi Arabia, and have yet to decline the invitation even as details about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continue to emerge. Nadal and Djokovic cited the duration of their commitment and the need for more information as reasons to be cautious about the decision to play the match, which is intended to launder the public image of a country whose agents reportedly killed, beheaded, and dismembered the Washington Post columnist inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Both Nadal and Djokovic appear to understand that something “bad” and “sad” has taken place in full view of the world, but seem to be stalling as they figure out what to do between now and December 22. Here’s what the two players said on Sunday, per the Associated Press:
“Of course I’m aware of the situation. But I had a commitment since one year ago to play there. And my team is talking to them, to analyze the things. That’s it,” Nadal said when asked his position on Sunday. “It’s terrible that one journalist lost (his) life. I know something happened very bad inside there. So we are looking about how evolves the situation and I hope the things will clarify as soon as possible.”
“We have the commitment with them for over a year, actually last year when we were discussing this potential matchup,” [Djokovic] said. “It was my professional tennis decision to do that. Of course I know, I’m aware of what’s happening, and it’s sad, of course.”
“My team right now is in touch with the people in Saudi Arabia as well as Rafa’s and of course we are all talking to understand the situation better,” the 14-time Grand Slam champion said Sunday. “Because right now we just don’t have obviously enough information, and we have to look into that a bit more and then we’ll make our decision soon.”
It’s unclear what new details would be required for these two men—who made a combined $19 million in on-court winnings alone this season—to turn down the paycheck, though perhaps they’re holding out for fresh intel about the 59-year-old Khashoggi’s capacity to take on a dozen men in a fistfight.
Today, world No. 3 Roger Federer was asked if he was invited to play in the exhibition. He said he was, but declined. “I didn’t want to play there at that time,” he said. “So, for me, it was a very quick decision.”