Tennis star Roger Federer rejected an invitation to play in a scheduled exhibition match in Saudi Arabia, an event that approaches as the country faces scrutiny over the death of a prominent journalist.
Federer said he declined an invitation to play in an exhibition match at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah in late December.
International tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have said that invitations were extended to them at least one year ago, according to The Associated Press.
The news organization notes that Federer acknowledged he’d previously been invited as well. But he said that he turned down the invite because he “didn’t want to play there at that time.”
“So, for me, it was a very quick decision,” Federer, who has won 20 Grand Slam championships in his career, said.
Djokovic and Nadal have not withdrawn from the event, but they did not rule out that their positions could change.
“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, according to AP.
Djokovic echoed Nadal’s remarks, adding that his “team right now is in touch with the people in Saudi Arabia.”
“We are all talking to understand the situation better,” he stated.
The tennis stars’ decisions come as Saudi Arabia has faced heavy criticism following the killing of a U.S.-based journalist at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government, went missing on Oct. 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul.
After first claiming that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, Saudi leadership acknowledged in mid-October that the journalist had been killed after an altercation broke out. Days later, a Saudi prosecutor said that the killing had, in fact, been premeditated.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week in an op-ed for The Washington Post that Khashoggi’s killing was ordered from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied knowledge of the incident.