Fun fact about me: I’m a tennis nut. As such, I’m super excited about the 2024 Australia Open, which has already begun if you count qualifiers (I do). The main draw starts tomorrow, and excitement is building across the world. I’ll offer a little tennis commentary down at the bottom for others like me, but let’s first jump into the cleantech news.
When it comes to tennis, car companies are often major sponsors. One thing I’ve loved seeing in the past few years is that these companies are often highlighting electric cars — in the corners of the courts, on the tennis grounds, as prizes, transporting the athletes, and just wherever possible. Kia has long been the sponsor of the Australian Open, and it was great to see a press release this week from Kia indicating that it was going to be emphasizing its latest electric cars at this year’s Australian Open.
In total, Kia is supplying 130 official AO24 vehicles this year. That includes the fully electric Kia EV9 seven-seat SUV and the fully electric Kia EV6 — one of my five favorite cars on the market. Being one of its newer vehicles, the 2024 Australia Open is the first AO that the EV9 will be supporting — but surely not the last. The EV9 is a champion in its own arena, having won several awards in Europe and the US recently, including Family Car of the Year from Fatherly and Car of the Year from DrivingElectric. It was also named one of the 50 greatest innovations of the year by Popular Science. The EV9 also recently got 5 stars from the Euro NCAP rating system.
Now, for the bad news: of those 130 AO vehicles, only 25 will be the fully electric models Kia is highlighting in its press announcement. There will be 15 EV9s and 10 EV6s, but then there will also be 10 Carnivals (a minivan) and 95 Sorentos. Ugh. Maybe Kia will be more ambitious next year.
“As the longest-running major partner of the Australian Open, we are delighted to once again play a pivotal role in supporting what is widely regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events while highlighting our ongoing commitment to the electric vehicle transition,” commented Charles Ryu, Senior Vice President, and Head of the Global Brand & CX Division at Kia. That’s nice. But how about a few more EVs, please!
“We are delighted to once again have the opportunity to demonstrate Kia’s latest industry-leading sustainable mobility solutions to those attending AO24 and to engage with millions of fans across the world through the digital marketing campaigns we have prepared.” Cool. But how about a few more EVs, please!
OK, I’ll stop.
The good news is that Kia will feature its electric vehicles in fan engagement activities, stimulating more sales, and the automaker is partner with Uber to try to get more of its drivers into electric cars (Kia electric cars, to be specific). “Kia’s brand initiatives at AO24 will include model showcases for the EV9 and EV5 concept car. A striking custom Ocean Matte Blue EV9 will be positioned next to a kinetic display wall, alongside two additional EV9 models that visitors can engage with. The brand is also collaborating with Uber One and adding an electric feel to their reinstated Kia fan fleet initiative, focusing on sustainable mobility. Kia will offer Uber one members complimentary ride opportunities to the tennis in a fleet of 30 electric vehicles, featuring a mix of EV6 and EV9 models.” Uber has big electrification goals, so I hope to see this partnership blossom and flower down under. We also just covered an Uber–Kia collaboration over at CES in Las Vegas based on Kia’s new Platform Beyond Vehicles (PBV).
Funny enough, Rafael Nadal is a brand ambassador for Kia. That’s funny because the Australian Open is his arch rival’s (Novak Djokovic’s) best tournament, and is one of the two Nadal has won the least (not that two AO titles is anything to be ashamed of). Maybe Kia should have sponsored Roland Garros all these years instead. 😉 Joking aside, Nadal is one of the most popular tennis players — and athletes — across the world, and it’s a positive collaboration. Unfortunately, Nadal just pulled out of the tournament last week due to an injury. In any case, Kia is “organizing a series of fan engagement activities that highlight its commitment to electrification and mark the company’s twenty-year partnership with brand ambassador Rafael Nadal.” Rafa may not be there, but it should be fun!
OK, now, for a little tennis commentary! You can tune out now if you’re not a tennis nut.
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open 10 times. No one has won a single tennis major more times other than the aforementioned Nadal, who has won Roland Garros a stunning 14 times. Betting money is clearly on Djokovic winning an 11th. Yes, the man is almost 37 years old, and that’s insane, but in the recent year-end ATP Finals, many tennis analysts commented that Djokovic may have played his best tennis ever. It’s a fun debate that never ends whether 2011 Djokovic, 2015 Djokovic, or 2023 Djokovic was better, but the fact that it’s a debate that can’t be settled it mind blowing. In short, Djokovic, having dominated this tournament for more than a decade and being seemingly as good as ever, is the heavy favorite to win. I will note, as well, that Djokovic switched to electric cars several years ago, buying a Tesla Model X when the model was new to the market.
Beyond the most obvious and on to other obvious commentary: the top contenders for the title are quite diverse and interesting this year. Those players would be Daniil Medvedev (he has beaten Djokovic in a hardcourt slam final before, the US Open); the very young Jannik Sinner (22 years old), who beat Djokovic twice in recent months but then lost to him in the finals of the 2023 ATP Finals; and the even younger stunner from another mother, Carlos Alcaraz (20 years old), who beat Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals last year, Novak’s other best tournament and one in which he seemed invincible over the last several years. If you had to pick someone from this group of four winning AO24 or any other player winning the title, almost all the betting money would be on one of these four. But, I’ll throw some wild long shots out there, some top hardcourt players who could make an unbelievable run with a little luck on their side: Tommy Paul, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gael Monfils, Ben Shelton, Francis Tiafoe, Alex de Minaur, Sebastian Korda, Nicolas Jarry, Lloyd Harris, Chris Eubanks, Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune, Grigor Dimitrov, and Hubi Hurkacz. Keep an eye on those players!
On the women’s side, heavy favorites (in whatever order you prefer at the moment) are Elena Rybakina, Iga Swiatek, and Aryna Sabalenka. Then you’ve got still very young and rising Coco Gauff and Mirra Andreeva. And you’ve got potential sneak attacks from veterans Naomi Osaka, Jessica Pegula, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Carolina Wozniaki, and Elina Svitolina. The women’s side is more known for surprises, but titles may be consolidating among the big hitters at the top in hardcourt tournaments now. We’ll see!
I think I’ve gone off topic enough. Enjoy the 2024 Australian Open and go test drive an electric Kia today!
All images courtesy of Kia. Photos by TENNIS AUSTRALIA/ FIONA HAMILTON.
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