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· Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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By Richard Pagliaro - The Australian Open has traded in a Ford for a Kia. The Korean car manufacturer was introduced today as the new title sponsor of the Australian Open. Kia succeeds Ford Motor company, which had served as title sponsor for the past 16 years, but did not renew its sponsorship when its contract concluded after the 2001 tournament.

Kia agreed to a two-year sponsorship contract with an option for two additional years. The Australian Open is staged in Melbourne, January 14-27th, 2002.

"I am delighted to be able to welcome on board Kia Motors Corporation as the new major sponsor of the Australian Open and look forward to working closely with them to strengthen our partnership over the next two years," said Tennis Australia Geoff Pollard, who suggested Kia would receive a discounted sponsorship rate for the first year of its contract due to the late signing date. "Successfully securing such a major company in such a competitive sponsorship climate sends a strong message about the Australian Open's growing international reputation as a global marquee event and its continuing potential for future expansion."

Kia is the fastest growing car brand in Australia, with sales up more than 30 per cent this year, and the Kia Carnival is Australia's top-selling car.

"Kia is honored to be able to link its name with the Australian Open, one of the world's most prestigious sporting events," said Mr. Y.K. Chun, the Kia Motors Corporation's Australian representative. "With our involvement in this event, Kia will not only be placed in front of millions of Australians, but also thanks to this event's massive worldwide audience, the Australian Open will take the Kia name to many millions of people around the world."

A month ago, Australian Open officials announced they were hoping to secure a title sponsor within 30 days before considering offering title sponsorship to a group of existing sponsors. The agreement with Kia provides the year's first Grand Slam with the title sponsor it sought as well as an Asian sponsor well-suited to Tennis Australia's plans for increasing the event's exposure in Asia.

"There is a real synergy to being involved with such a fast growing company as Kia, particularly one whose headquarters are in the Asian region where we see the role of our tournament continuing to grow," Australian Open Chief Executive Paul McNamee said. "Over the next few years we are aiming to establish the Australian Open as the biggest sporting event in the Asian region, and the number one tennis brand, and having an Asian company as our major sponsor is an excellent fit."
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