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Volume 7 No. 79
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Australian Open Endeavors To Attract Chinese Tennis Tourists

The Australian Open "stepped up efforts to lure Chinese tennis fans to Melbourne Park by boosting broadcast and sponsorship deals," according to Melanie Burton of REUTERS. More than 59 million people in China tuned in to watch the Australian Open in '17, up by more than 84% on the year before, and organizers are "banking on numbers rising again." The Asia-Pacific grand slam expanded a long term relationship with Chinese digital broadcaster iQIYI to '21 and launched a five-year deal with premium mineral water supplier Ganten from this year. It has four Chinese broadcasters as partners and a year-round social media team on Wechat and Weibo. Australia is hoping the country's premier tennis event will "turn viewers into visitors from what is soon to be its biggest tourism market." Tourism Australia GM of Media Leo Seaton said, "Events like the Australian Open ... play a particularly important role in encouraging repeat visits." As part of its plan to attract more visitors, organizers "have tied up with online China travel agent Ctrip" (REUTERS, 1/18).

PRIZE PURSE: The BBC's Russell Fuller reported former tennis player Martina Navratilova urged Novak Djokovic and other male players who want higher prize money to "get together with the women." Djokovic used last Friday's ATP players' meeting at the Australian Open to propose the "formation of a union to fight for greater financial reward." Navratilova supports that but warned the 12-time Grand Slam champion "paying men more than women is not the answer." Navratilova said, "We really need to pull together and not against each other. I think it's great that the players should be getting more. The percentage of the money the majors give to the players is less than it ought to be." There is no suggestion that last Friday's meeting discussed "increasing men's prize money at the expense of the women's tour," but the issue "remains a subtext to the debate." There is a "significant number of men who think they should be paid more" (BBC, 1/18).

'TAKING A RISK': In London, Simon Briggs reported Gaël Monfils warned Australian Open organizers that they were "taking a risk" by asking players to compete in a "brutal Melbourne heatwave." Monfils said that he had experienced "a small heat stroke" as he faced Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena, where on-court temperatures were reported to have climbed to somewhere between 45 and 50 degrees Celsius (113-122 degrees Fahrenheit). Although he eventually regrouped to complete his second-round match -- which Djokovic won by a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 margin -- Monfils "looked like he might be forced to retire early on." At the 4-3 changeover in the second set, Monfils told chair umpire John Blom, "If I can't take longer than 25 seconds between points, I am going to collapse" (TELEGRAPH, 1/18). In Sydney, Scott Spits reported the "brutally hot day at Melbourne Park" resulted in Garbiñe Muguruza receiving "treatment for blisters caused by the hot court surface" during her second-round loss to Su-Wei Hsieh. Muguruza said, "It's terrible, very, very hot, and it's easy to get blister and red" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/18). In Melbourne, Anthony Colangelo reported the crowd of 38,072 "was down about 10,000 people" on the two previous daytime slots (THE AGE, 1/18).