Tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Rod Laver – two of the greatest left-handed players in the history of the sport – joined forces in Shanghai today for the first ever international launch of the Australian Open.
With less than 100 days to go until Australian Open 2016 gets under way at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia Commercial Director Richard Heaselgrave announced a raft of innovations for the event, which is set to be the biggest and best in Grand Slam history.
Today’s launch is the latest in a series of Tennis Australia events throughout China to foster relations and develop the sport within the region.
In 2016 the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific will be linked closer to Asia than ever before, with initiatives including:
- The launch of the Australian Open WeChat account, a social media platform used by more than 600 million people worldwide
- A friendship agreement with the Shanghai Rolex Masters ATP event, which will see the two tournaments share information and resources
- A dynamic events calendar including today’s milestone launch, a Women in Focus lunch with Grand Slam champions Li Na and Martina Navratilova in Shanghai this Friday, and a viewing party to coincide with the men’s final
- The opening of a Tennis Australia office in Hong Kong, with a team working on further integrating the sport and the Australian Open in greater China and the Asia-Pacific region
- Agreements with 12 Asia-Pacific broadcasters, including six in China alone
- Partners including Kia, ANZ, Jacob’s Creek, Rolex, Wilson, Yonex, AccorHotels and CPA Australia helping bring Tennis Australia events to life via major initiatives throughout the region
- A documentary detailing Li Na’s outstanding tennis career set to roll out on Australian Open digital platforms in both English and Mandarin.
Speaking at today’s Shanghai launch Mr Heaselgrave said the Asia-Pacific region was a key market for the sport.
“The Australian Open is not just for local tennis fans; it is the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific and it is a priority for us that we continue to develop the sport and our relations in the region,” he said.
“Every year we dedicate more resources, generate more content and develop closer ties within greater China. We have a long-term commitment to the region and are excited by what we can achieve in the future.
“With the recent success of Li Na and the ongoing rise of Kei Nishikori, as well as Sania Mirza and Leander Paes in doubles, tennis is booming in Asia and we want to ensure we maximise the opportunity for all tennis fans in the region to pick up a racquet and to share in the excitement of the Australian Open.”
Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal – who alongside retired Chinese champion Li Na is an official “Friend of the Australian Open” – said he was looking forward to returning to Melbourne Park, the scene of his 2009 title win.
“Every year I look forward to play in Melbourne, I have great memories of not only winning the title but each year is a great experience for me as a player,” Nadal said.
“It’s fantastic to play at the ‘Happy Slam’ and for us, it’s true – we love to play the Australian Open and we’re always happy to be there. It’s exciting to launch the event here in Shanghai. Tennis has become so popular in Asia and it’s great to share our sport of tennis with all our fans.”
Australian tennis legend Rod Laver said it was exciting to see the sport – and the championship he won three times – continue to grow in profile in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Tennis has become such a global sport and it’s great to see so many Asian fans hitting the court and following the Australian Open,” Laver said.
“Li Na was a tremendous role model and Kei Nishikori is one of the most exciting players on the circuit; it’s great to see them leading the way.”