Daphne and Norm are truly racking up the miles.
That may seem like a random statement about an elderly couple enjoying a spot of post-retirement travel, but in fact Daphne and Norm are the affectionate nicknames given to the magnificent silver singles trophies presented each year to the women’s and men’s Australian Open champions.
The trophies, officially known as the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup and the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, have recently returned from an exotic tour of Asia that encompassed the major attractions and historic sites of Tokyo, Japan and six Chinese cities in a whirlwind three-week tour during October.
Daphne and Norm were met with quite a reception wherever they went on their Asian travels. Literally thousands of fans enjoyed the chance to see the trophies and have their photos taken with them, and the trophies were treated as special guests at gala dinners held in every city they visited.
Dean Brostek, Tennis Australia’s Asia-Pacific business development manager, said that the excitement, respect and awe that the trophies were met with at each stop was incredible.
“There is a deep understanding of the history of tennis and the Australian Open throughout Asia. The fans we met appreciated that the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova had won these historic trophies and that a Grand Slam title is one of the most prestigious achievements in sport,” he said.
The trophies began in Tokyo and attended the ATP Japan Open before hopping across to Beijing, where they were on display at the China Open before being unveiled in a Centre Court presentation which also included the announcement of the Australian Open ballkid exchange program. Following this was a visit to the historic city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province, where the trophies took a trip down Huang Lane in the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys district, an ancient network of alleyways and preserved buildings.
Daphne and Norm next toured through Zhangzhou and Xiamen, visiting the Olympic Tennis Centre and the prestigious Xiamen University and treated to a Chinese buffet and spectacular display of Kung Fu dancing.
After a return to Beijing to take in the magnificent Temple of Heaven and the Birdsnest stadium that played host to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the trophies concluded their tour in Nanjing on finals day at inaugural Asia-Pacific Australian Open Wildcard Play-off. Eventual winners Wu Di and Zhang Yuxyuan enjoyed the chance to pose with the trophies that they will now compete for at Australian Open 2013.
“Ken Rosewall as a guest speaker at our gala dinner in the Australian embassy in Tokyo was incredible. The respect he is held is remarkable,” Brostek reflected.
“We also received an amazing welcome from the highest ranking government officials in the Fujian Province, including police escorts.”
Daphne and Norm’s Asian tour ties in perfectly with the Australian Open’s standing as the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific. Although the tournament is already extremely popular in the region, Brostek said that events such as the Trophy Tour help to develop deeper relationships with government and business and strengthen the Australian Open’s position as the region’s premier sporting event.
“The future growth potential of the Australian Open is closely linked to our ability to engage with and embrace the region. Our ambition is for the Australian Open to be the most watched sports event in the region and the most visited by Asian sports fans,” he said.
This strategy appears to be working, with the Trophy Tour continuing to expand its presence in Asia. In the inaugural tour of 2011, Daphne and Norm visited Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan in China, while this year’s tour included significantly more cities. Plans are afoot to include more cities and countries in future Asian tours, as well as extending the time the trophies spend in the region.
For now, however, the trophies continue their tour on Australian soil in the lead-up to Australian Open 2013. And as the tournament draws ever nearer, the burgeoning army of Asian tennis talent will ramp up their preparations for an assault on the year’s first Grand Slam.
No doubt they will be hoping to get their hands on the same famous pieces of silverware that sparked immense excitement among thousands of their fans back home.