In a first for Saudi Arabia tennis, global stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in an exhibition match in Jeddah this December.
The two players, currently ranked number one and two in the world, will face each other at King Abdullah Sports City on December 22.
The event has been called the King Salman Tennis Championship and will take place nine days before the Brisbane International.
Nadal has already confirmed that he will play at the tournament, which marks the start of the 2019 tennis season.
He won his 17th grand slam title at the French Open in June this year, while Djokovic won both Wimbledon and the US Open to take his grand slam tally to 14.
After news of the Saudi Arabia tennis exhibition was announced, Nadal tweeted: “Thanks for the invitation and looking forward to playing and visiting for the first time.”
Djokovic put out a similar tweet, calling Saudi Arabia a “beautiful country”.
Looking forward to playing and visiting this beautiful country. Thank you for the invitation, see you guys soon! https://t.co/0ZgSLnLgQu
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) October 8, 2018
While many Saudi Arabia tennis fans showed their excitement to see Nadal and Djokovic play in Jeddah, others expressed concerns.
The announcement of the exhibition match comes amid the ongoing diplomatic situation regarding the disappearance of journalist Jamil Khashoggi.
Both Djokovic and Nadal’s tweets sparked pleas from followers to avoid the country.
Yes Rafa you are the best! Don’t spoil your reputation by going to a country which is responsible for bloodbath in Yemen, killing of activists & journalists.. #RafaBoycottSaudi
— Larry Mccormick (@larrymccormic) October 8, 2018
Nole we always cheer for you but Saudi Arabia beautiful country??? What about basic human rights the government violates? What about women not allowed to drive over there? I know that you don’t want to get involved in politics but simple “thanks but I can’t” will suffice.
— Aleksandar Nikolic (@GrouchoMarx016) October 8, 2018
The match comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is attempting to increase its presence on the world sporting stage.
Jeddah will host the Kingdom’s first professional golf tournament next year, although a WWE event in November has been cast into doubt due to the diplomatic situation.
Saudi Arabia has also hosted a women’s squash tournament in January this year, along with a boxing event in September that attracted global attention.
Djokovic narrowly leads Nadal 27-25 in their head-to-head record. Their last meeting was at Wimbledon earlier this year, when Djokovic won in five sets in the semi-final.