The Australian Open is making an "unprecedented push into the sport's new frontier and doing it via a handful of digital platforms" in order to "capitalise on a booming interest in tennis in China," according to Adam Cooper of THE AGE. Tennis Australia staff "will publish news stories, updates, photographs, audio, video clips and live scoring" on media outlets such as social networking website Yuku, Sina Weibo -- the Chinese equivalent of Twitter -- and Tencent QQ "in a bid to take the Open to Beijing and beyond." China "boasts one of the best women's players" in Li Na, but the sport is "only starting to take off in the country" with an estimated 14 million participants. Tennis Australia Digital & Publishing Manager Kim Trengove said that it "makes sense for the Australian Open to be promoted heavily in China, given the tournament's position as the grand slam of Asia and the Pacific, and that Australia's geographic proximity to Asia gives it advantages over the host nations of the other three majors." Tencent QQ, one of the "most popular portals in China, also has a seemingly insatiable appetite for everything to do with the Australian Open, and will send four journalists to Melbourne to cover the event." In addition, Tennis Australia has "employed Chinese language students from universities across Melbourne to help market Melbourne Park back to their homeland" (THE AGE, 1/13).
MAKING HISTORY: REUTERS reported that China is "set to take another small step on the long march to becoming a tennis power" when 21-year-old Wu Di meets Croatia's Ivan Dodig in the first round of the Australian Open. The 186th-ranked Wu, from the Yangtze River port of Wuhan, earned a wild card to become the first Chinese man in the main draw of a Grand Slam since Mei Fuchi played at Wimbledon in '59. While Chinese women players "have made major strides in recent years," the men have "trailed far behind." The "pint-sized" Wu said that he "hoped to do his bit for the lagging half of China's population as he battled the butterflies before his Grand Slam debut" (REUTERS, 1/14).
NEW LOOK: In Melbourne, Cooper in a separate piece reported stage one of a redevelopment plan has been "completed at Melbourne Park in time for the Australian Open, and one of the featured developments are elevated viewing spots overlooking the practice courts." Viewed from a "new public area built around Hisense Arena," the courts are part of the National Tennis Centre, the "new home for Australia’s brightest tennis prospects." But during the Open they "will be used as practice courts where fans will get a closer look at the top players." The National Tennis Centre, which has "eight indoor courts and 13 outdoor courts, is the standout" of the A$366M ($386M) redevelopment works that began in early '11. The project is "meant to ensure Melbourne will host the Australian Open" until '36 and is "set to give visitors a new look over the next few years" (THE AGE, 1/13).