Wilson Sporting Goods has signed a five year deal to provide the official tennis balls for the Australian Open and major lead-in tournaments on the Road to the Australian Open.

The deal, which now makes Wilson the Official Ball for two of the four Grand Slams (Wilson has been the official ball of the US Open for the past 26 years), also covers Australia’s satellite, Challenger and Futures tournaments on the Kia Tour, the 14 national titles covering 18/U, 16/U, 14/U and 12/U age groups events on the Optus Junior Tour, as well as the wider Tennis Australia Development Program.

Wilson is one of the three biggest tennis ball manufacturers in the world with an estimated 25 percent share of the world market, rising to 42 percent in the US, with a 3 percent growth in overall sales of Wilson balls in 2004. The new arrangement replaces Slazenger as the official ball of the Australian Open.

The announcement opens up a range of year round global marketing and merchandising opportunities for both organizations particularly in the neighboring Asia / Pacific region where both Wilson Sporting Goods and the Australian Open are looking to increase their brand awareness.

Brian Dillman, Vice President Wilson Sporting Goods Co. Racquet Sports said, “The Australian Open, ‘The Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific,’ is one of the world’s premier sporting events.

“We are very excited by the opportunity to work with Tennis Australia and the Australian Open in the development and execution of marketing strategies and initiatives and programs globally, and more particularly throughout the Asia/Pacific region, to help make this great event even better.

“Partnering with the Australian Open is the next step in our goal to be the number one tennis ball brand in the world. Now with two Grand Slam tournaments, Davis Cup and over 70 other ATP and WTA events, Wilson is in a great position to grow our share around the world.

“We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Ross Langdon, General Manager of Wilson Sporting Goods Australia adds, “This sponsorship will provide opportunities for all parties to enhance not only the Australian Open and the lead in tournaments on the Road to the Australian Open, but also the Junior Tour and Men’s and Women’s Satellite, Challenger and Futures tournaments.

“We are also very keen to provide a great partnership for Tennis Australia in all their ‘grow the game’ and ‘player development’ programs. They are very important industry initiatives and are critical to the future of our great sport of tennis, which is such a key element in the make up of Australian culture and lifestyle.

“We look forward to really working closely with the grass roots of the game and cementing our place as ‘the tennis brand’ in Australia.”

Geoff Pollard, President of Tennis Australia said, “I would first like to pay tribute to Slazenger with whom we have enjoyed a very positive relationship over the past hundred years.

“As we embark on the next century of the Australian Open, this new partnership with Wilson offers us a greater opportunity to further develop awareness of the Australian Open brand worldwide, and to explore a broader range of co-branding and merchandising opportunities than was previously possible.”

The events on the Road to the Australian Open covered under the new Wilson agreement are: Hyundai Hopman Cup (Perth), Uncle Tobys Hardcourts (Gold Coast), Next Generation Hardcourts (Adelaide), Moorilla International (Hobart), Richard Luton Properties Canberra Women’s Classic (Canberra), Kooyong Classic (Melbourne).