Even the most short-sighted of observers saw this one coming.

Saudi Arabia is going to take over tennis, the only question now being if it’ll be sooner or later.

The Saudis have long been sniffing about tennis but the past month in particular has seen several interesting, or disheartening developments, depending upon your point of view.

It’s been revealed that the Private Investment Fund (PIF), which is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment fund, has offered a whopping $2 billion to buy the men’s and women’s associations, the ATP and the WTA, with a view to merging the two and creating one, combined tour.

This tour would, it is proposed, be entitled the Premium Tour and would streamline what is becoming an increasingly crowded tennis calendar.

Further details will likely become clearer later this month following the next round of show-down talks at the Madrid Masters but surely only those who are entirely deluded can see that Saudi Arabia is coming for tennis. 

And despite there being countless detractors to their take-over, make no mistake that they will get what they want. It may happen in the very near future, or it may take a few more years but either way, my money is on there being only one winner.

The real question, then, is how good or bad this may be for the sport.

Andy Murray is, without fail, the best person to listen to when it comes to looking for a voice of reason within tennis.

He is a rare beast; a player who consistently puts morals over money.

The former world number one has, in the past, turned down millions of pounds to play exhibition matches in Saudi, a stance few others have ever taken. 

Earlier this year, it was announced that in October, Saudi Arabia will host a new elite tennis exhibition tournament featuring Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, as well as three other Grand Slam winners.

This one exhibition alone, called the Six Kings Slam, says it all about how many players will put money over any concerns they may have about Saudi Arabia and its questionable human rights record, which is why Murray’s stance of avoiding the gulf state was such an obvious outlier.

Yet even the Scot’s stance is shifting.

The Herald: Andy Murray

Last year, he admitted that should tour events ever be held in Saudi Arabia, he’d seriously consider participating while last month, he was non-committal about how damaging, or not, it would be to have the Gulf state heavily involved.

In truth, the ship has already sailed when it comes to Saudi involvement in tennis.

The PIF has already signed a multi-year strategic partnership with the ATP, with their logo plastered everywhere at last month’s Indian Wells and Miami Masters tournaments.

So maybe, instead of trying to fight against the involvement of Saudi, it makes sense to just embrace it.

We all know that their involvement is sports-washing at its finest; the human rights abuses that go on within Saudi are well-documented and we can all see how sport is being used to paper over these indiscretions.

But golf, boxing, F1 and several more sports have proven that attempting to thwart Saudi interest is futile.

And perhaps there’d be benefits.

The proposition to merge the men’s and women’s tours is, in itself, a good idea; women’s tennis in particular often suffers as a result of the men’s and women’s tours being two separate entities and so by combining them, the women’s tour will be viewed less as the poor relation.

The proposed Premium Tour would see equal prize money awarded, something that already happens in the Grand Slam tournaments but is some way off in the tour events.

And a combined tour, with combined tournaments taking place, would also be of great benefit to the women in particular.

This would also streamline the tour, a development which is badly needed. As it stands, the tennis calendar is bursting at the seams and contributes, at least in part, to the endless injury-list suffered by the top players. 

So there are, undoubtedly, benefits.

The real question is do these benefits outweigh the negatives?

I’m no fan of sports-washing, of which the Saudi's proposed take-over of tennis clearly is.

But where there is money, players will go.

Even for the Nadals, Djokovics and Alcarazs of this world, tens of millions of dollars is too much to turn down.

We’ve seen it happen in golf; men who have more money than they could ever spend are still lured by the eye-watering sums offered to them by the PIF.

So perhaps, in tennis anyway, the question should not be what if Saudi Arabia takes over tennis, but when.

My money, for what it’s worth, is tennis will largely be in Saudi hands within the next three years. The wheels are already in motion and we’ll know after the Madrid Masters just how quickly they’re turning.

From here on in, it’s about coming to terms with Saudi Arabia exerting yet more influence over sport and quite what that means.

The derision of sports-washing will, quite rightly, continue, but it’ll likely have little impact. Money talks, after all.

So, from here on in, the focus should be on using the Saudi involvement to benefit sport, and particularly women’s sport as in most cases, it’s women’s sport that needs the financial boost far more than men’s.

Because if something good can come out of this Saudi juggernaut then that’s at least a crumb of comfort.