SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Chinese tennis players Zheng Jie and Li Na made history last week in Melbourne.
Both women made the semifinals in the Australian Open, the first time two Chinese players have reached the top four of a Grand Slam tournament simultaneously.
Neither woman won, but the breakthrough meant there was plenty for them -- and their sponsors -- to celebrate.
"This is a big moment for tennis in China," said Jarrett Dube, a Nike account director at Wieden+Kennedy in Shanghai.
Li Na, 27, who lost to top seed Serena Williams, became the first Chinese player ever to enter the WTA's top 10 when new rankings were released on Feb. 1, 2010.
Zheng Jie, 26, who was eliminated by Belgian player Justine Henin, moved up 15 slots to rank 20.
Each woman's success was met with an outpouring of support from tennis fans back home, and an ad blitz by their respective sponsors in Chinese newspapers and web sites such as the home page for Sina.com's sports section.
"This is a good chance to enhance the relationship between Anta and Zheng Jie," said Samuel Xu, marketing director at Anta Sports Products, a major Chinese sportswear brand based in Jinjiang, Fujian province.
Anta and Mercedes-Benz recently signed lucrative endorsement deals with Ms. Zheng.
Nike, which has backed Li Na since 1997, broke a big campaign using the tagline "There are no rankings for ambition."
"The tagline is pretty bold and reflective of both Nike's 'Just Do It' spirit and the truth of Li Na's competitiveness," said Nike spokeswoman Ginger Zhu in Shanghai.
Ms. Li is the only Chinese tennis player currently under contract to Nike.
Two years ago, she was part of a multi-athlete "Just Do It" TV and print campaign for Nike.
She was highlighted in tactical print executions right before and on the days she competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in another campaign called "Competition First."
Nike featured Ms. Li in another multi-athlete campaign in 2006, to builds awareness around the Asian Games that year.
China's "golden flowers" are inspirational story
The two women, who have been nicknamed "The Golden Flowers" in their home country, are already known to global tennis fans.
A Communist Party member who is adored by the Chinese media, Ms. Zheng won China's first grand slam title with Yan Zi in the women's doubles at the 2006 Australian Open and was the first to reach a singles semi-final at a grand slam with her fairytale run as a wildcard at the 2008 Wimbledon championships.
Ms. Li, meanwhile, is a temperamental player who has clashed with the Chinese authorities and fans, but she remains a trailblazer for women's tennis in China. She was the first Chinese player to win an event on the WTA circuit, the first ranked in the top 20 and the first to reach a grand slam quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2006.
Her career has been plagued by injuries that have sidelined her for lengthy periods, a background highlighted by Nike to market her strong performance in Melbourne last week.
"We wanted to touch on the fact that her story is inspirational, she has battled back from problems but is still the first Chinese player to be ranked in the top ten. That's what 'Just do it' is all about," Mr. Dube said.
"She didn't win but that milestone of her making it to semifinals carries a lot of weight. It's something we can rally around going forward to make the sport bigger here and show how China is a force in tennis."
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