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Roger Federer says he made a 'quick decision' not to play exhibition match in Saudi Arabia

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 31/10/2018 Simon Briggs

a close up of Roger Federer holding a sign: Roger Federer rejected the chance to play in Saudia Arabia - Getty Images Europe © Getty Images Roger Federer rejected the chance to play in Saudia Arabia - Getty Images Europe Arriving in Paris amid the afterglow of his 99th career title, Roger Federer once again demonstrated his knack for avoiding public-relations pitfalls. In this latest case, the potential embarrassment revolved around an upcoming exhibition match in Saudi Arabia.

Asked to comment on the controversial showpiece – which is intended to feature both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – Federer revealed that he too had been approached to participate. However, he said that he had needed only a moment’s consideration to dismiss the idea.

“They contacted me too,” said Federer. “I prefer not to play. I’m happy practising. I’m happy doing other things, and I didn’t want to play there at that time. So, for me, it was a very quick decision.”

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It is unclear whether the Nadal-Djokovic exhibition, which had been scheduled for King Abdullah Sports City on Dec 22, will go ahead after both players said on Sunday that they are considering the situation.

Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman stands at the centre of an international furore after Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who had criticised his regime, was assassinated at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul earlier this month.

Federer tends to spend his winters in the Middle East, where he has a home in Dubai, but even the seven-figure sums on offer in Jeddah were not enough to attract him when the contracts were drawn up last year. He did not mention Saudi Arabia’s unfortunate human-rights record on Tuesday, but we can deduce that it might have played a part in his decision.

Novak Djokovic holding a racket: Nadal and Djokovic are both scheduled to play the exhibition match in Saudi Arabia © REUTERS Nadal and Djokovic are both scheduled to play the exhibition match in Saudi Arabia Meanwhile, Federer will face Milos Raonic tomorrow in what will be his first match in Paris for three years. He has skipped this indoor event for the last two seasons, and last appeared at the French Open in 2015.

“I love playing here in Paris,” Federer said on Tuesday. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, but the body is good enough, the mind also. After Basel, it’s always complicated for me to get up again. It’s like Wimbledon for me. I’m often quite emotional and as we saw that was particularly the case on Sunday.”

Nadal will also play his opening match tomorrow against fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Paris should consider itself fortunate, as the last time the Big Three appeared in the same Masters 1000 event was all the way back at Indian Wells 19 months ago.

Gallery: Roger Federer through the years (Photo Services)

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