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  • South Korean Hyeon Chung made headlines when he claimed the Next Gen ATP Finals title last November in Milan. (AAP)
While some might think it´s the "Aussie Slam", the tournament is officially billed the Grand Slam of the Asian and Pacific region. Asia´s best, Japanese Kei Nishikori, had to withdraw with an injury, however, a number of talented players see their chance ahead of this year´s Australian Open.
By
Maria Schaller

12 Jan 2018 - 11:01 PM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2018 - 3:01 PM

The tournament was founded in 1904 and became first known as the "Australasian Championships".

While the logos have changed throughout the years, the meaning hasn´t.

Today, the tournament is called "The Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific".

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A long way to Grand Slam glory

Although Asia has long been included in the name, champions from the region have been few.

The first to claim an Australian Open title was India´s Leander Paes, who won the Mixed Doubles in 2003 alongside the great Martina Navratilova.

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie from China became the first all-Asian duo to win in Melbourne, taking home the Women´s Doubles in 2006.

In 2014, crowd favourite Li Na from China finally became the first, yet only Asian player to claim a Singles title in Melbourne.

But the always-smiling Chinese had since become the mother of a daughter and retired from tennis, which has caused quite a drought for Asia.

However, China has four current Top 100 players competing in Melbourne: Peng Shuai (27), Zhang Shuai (35), Wang Qiang (44) and Duan Ying-Ying (84) are trying to follow in Li Na´s footsteps.

Japans´s Naomi Osaka, daughter of a Haitian and a Japanese, is often being considered the most hopeful talent from the Asian region.

The 20-year-old, currently number 70 in the world, is known for her powerful game.

Other Top 100 players are Hsie Su-Wei (90) from Taipei and Japan´s Nao Hibino (98).

A 21-year-old in the spotlight

Asia is still waiting for the first male Grand Slam champion.

Kei Nishikori went close when he reached the US Open´s final in 2014, however, the Japanese is currently suffering from a wrist injury and withdrew from this year´s Australian Open in early January.

Nishikori´s countryman Yuichi Sugita is the second highest ranked Asian at 41. He will try to succeed to the second round for the first time in Melbourne.

Asia´s third best is currently in the spotlight. 21-year-old Chung Hyeon (ranked 62) is a man on the rise.

The South Korean recently claimed the inaugural ATP NextGen Finals in Milan, the first title to be won by a Korean since 2003.

Other Asian hopefuls are Lu Yen-Hsun from Taipei (74) and Japan´s Taro Daniel (98).

The Australian Open attracts a large Asian audience

The tournament is not only attended by many Asian visitors, it´s also widely broadcasted across Asia and attracts a large audience.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says he is committed to growing the tournament in Asia. 

“It’s a very competitive field in Asia", he says with respect to Asian players.

The Grand Slam also holds long partnerships with major Asian sponsors.