Published January 28, 2013
Patrons at a Beijing bar watch the Australian Open women's final between Victoria Azarenka and Li Na.
The Australian Open "has stepped up its efforts to market the tournament and court increasingly affluent and tennis-mad fans in China," according to Justin Bergman of the AP. The tournament has "tried to build up its brand in China" by taking the Australian Open trophy on a tour of the country, creating a Mandarin-language version of the event's website and setting up an Australian Open account on China's version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. Additionally, "more tour operators in China are offering package tours to Melbourne." Tennis Australia Commercial Dir Steve Ayles said that "these tennis-themed trips increased" by 82% compared to last year. Ayles: "What it means is when a Chinese player plays particularly well, because we have this all in place, it just heightens the level of awareness of the Australian Open. 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" (AP, 1/27
). In Sydney, Scott Murdoch wrote "China's love affair" with Li is not showing any "signs of fading after her tenacious performance" against world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open women's final. An estimated 120 million people watched the dramatic match, which was shown on CCTV5, one of China's main networks. Support for Li "was strongest in her hometown," Wuhan, in the province of Hubei. At the Hubei Tennis Center, "dozens of supporters spent the 2.5 hour match willing their idol -- who is now considered China's biggest sporting figure -- to snatch victory from her Belarusian rival" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/28