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11 January 2014 | Herald Sun

THE biggest names in tennis will juggle business strategies with game plans ahead of next week’s Australian Open.

From humble plugs for confectionery to lucrative endorsements with hotel chains and car companies, the first grand slam event of the year offers the chance for top-seeded players to cash in.

Melbourne’s brand is also elevated internationally as stars use the city as a backdrop.

This week alone, Serena Williams promoted underwear brand Berlei and joined sister Venus at boutique South Yarra hotel The Olsen.

Victoria Azarenka and Roger Federer played rooftop tennis for Nike and defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic spruiked watch brand Seiko at an exclusive event in Southbank.

Meanwhile, Chinese superstar Li Na (pictured at the top of this articles) re-signed a lucrative two-year deal with Crown casino. Hotel chiefs won’t reveal how much the deal is worth but said the exposure it generated was invaluable.

“Crown is a growing company in the resort tourism business and I can’t think of a better representative than Li Na,” chairman James Packer said.

Even past greats are still getting in on the action. This year, Andre Agassi is again the face of Jacob’s Creek wines and Australian tennis legend Rod Laver can be seen in commercials for private health insurer Medibank. Image Group International director Jon-Michail said the endorsements worked.

“The Australian Open has a lot of high-profile sports people who’ve become celebrities in their own right,” he said. “That is guaranteed to get the cash registers ringing.’’

But he said Melbourne, the brand, was the big winner.

©2014 Herald Sun | This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on 11 January 2014.