Chinese interest key to Open

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 27, 2013
2010_australian_open_0131
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 three-year deal with China Central Television and the Shanghai Media Group to broadcast the tournament throughout China, with a guaranteed minimum number of hours of coverage. The deal was in place in time for last year's tournament, which attracted 115 million viewers - without Li or any other Chinese player doing well. ''It'll be very interesting to see what this year's number is,'' said Steve Ayles, Tennis Australia's commercial director. ''We're certainly awaiting that with some anticipation.'' The tournament has also tried to build up its brand in China by taking the Australian Open trophy on a tour of the country, creating a Mandarin version of the Australian Open website and setting up an Australian Open account on China's version of Twitter, Sina weibo. Organizers also set up a tournament for aspiring players from the Asia-Pacific region to compete for a wild card into the main draw. The first edition of the playoff was held in China in October, and the wild cards went to two players from China - Zhang Yuxuan, who competed in the women's tournament, and Wu Di, who became the first man from mainland China to play in the main draw. More tour operators in China are offering package tours to Melbourne, as well. Ayles said these tennis-themed trips increased by 82 percent this year. ''What it means is when a Chinese player plays particularly well, because we have this all in place, it just heightens level of awareness of the Australian Open,'' Ayles said. ''Right across the board, when we have a player like Li Na play well and get to a final, obviously it helps underpin our strategy in China.'' Part of the reason for an outreach program like this is sheer protectionism. Several years ago, Tennis Australia feared it could lose its Grand Slam to a booming Asian city like Shanghai, eager to increase its profile on the global stage. ''Obviously if your business model is underpinned on 22 million people, it's quite a challenge for you,'' Ayles said, referring to the population of Australia. ''There's no question being part of a bigger region, that's where the opportunities for growth comes,'' he added. ''This is not 2-to-5-year strategy; it's 20-, 40-year strategy.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Charles Woodson joining ESPN's 'Sunday NFL Countdown' team

A’s land Khris Davis from Brewers for prospects

Family of deceased Kyle Field construction worker awarded $53 million by jury

Chris Bosh to miss All-Star Game with calf injury, Al Horford to replace

NBA commissioner Adam Silver supports bringing sports betting in to the light

Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia becomes first player ever banned by MLB for PEDs

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eight bold predictions for NBA All-Star Weekend

Iowa athletics department under federal civil rights investigation

2016 Naismith Hall of Fame finalists announced

Hasselbeck ‘strongly leaning towards playing’ in 18th season

Pitchers to wear new protective headwear in spring training

Klay Thompson: Warriors will shoot for all-time wins record

Why the Virginia Cavaliers are a National Championship contender

Cardiff City owner tells team to shoot more, because ugly men can marry beautiful women

Report: American Pharoah will make $35 million as stud in 2016

City hosts Tottenham in Valentine’s Day clash

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Is there a place for Aaron Hill with the Brewers?

The market for forwards may shape the NHL trade deadline

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

The most intriguing NBA story lines for the rest of the season

Report: Timberwolves ‘lament’ Andrew Wiggins missing weight-lifting sessions

Kevin Durant to the Warriors makes little sense

City of Atlanta, Braves fighting over iconic Hank Aaron statue

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker