When Li Na saw all the Chinese flags and heard the cheers of ''Jia You,'' or ''Let's Go'' in Mandarin, during her Australian Open final against Victoria Azarenka, she thought she might have been in Beijing.
''I can hear a lot of Chinese fans, yeah,'' she said after losing to Azarenka in three sets Saturday night. ''I was, oh, looks like China Open.''
Li was joking, but Australian Open organizers would be pleased to hear the comparison. The tournament has long billed itself as the ''Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific,'' and in recent years, it has stepped up its efforts to court increasingly affluent and tennis-mad fans in China.
With Li making the women's final for the second time in three years, this has been easy to do.
Attracting TV viewers was the first priority. When Li, China's top player, reached her first Grand Slam final at Melbourne Park in 2011, losing to Kim Clijsters, the tournament drew 120 million viewers in China.
Seeing numbers like these, Tennis Australia signed a thr...