Melbourne VIC, Australia, 7 October 2014 | Tennis Australia

Rafael Nadal was today announced a “Friend of the Australian Open” at official Australian Open 2015 launch events in Melbourne and Shanghai.

“I like to think I’ve always been friendly with the Australian Open, but I’m excited it is now official,” the 2009 men’s singles champion joked.

“I’m already focused on coming back to the Australian Open in January. It was a very emotional tournament for me this year. For me, it is important to win the Australian Open again and to achieve that, I need to continue to work hard, stay healthy and be able to compete.

“It’s a tournament I love so much, where the warm conditions are great and there is a fantastic crowd.

“There is a great atmosphere, the facilities are amazing and each year they keep improving. It’s the beginning of the year and everyone, the fans, the staff and the volunteers, are all very happy and friendly and in a good mood,” Nadal continued.

> All Australian Open 2015 tickets are on sale now

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley formally named Rafael Nadal a “Friend of the Australian Open” at this morning’s tournament launch at Melbourne Park, staged on the newly redeveloped Margaret Court Arena.

“Friends of the Australian Open” is a new concept helping to promote Australia’s Grand Slam on the world stage.

“Without a doubt Rafael Nadal is one of the most exciting sportsmen in the world today,” Tiley said.

“Rafa exemplifies the values we all work hard to uphold – excellence, humility, teamwork and loyalty – and it’s a coup for us to work with him to promote not just our event, but our wonderful sport, around the world.”

Nadal will collaborate with Tennis Australia to stage a special charity event on Wednesday 14 January at Margaret Court Arena ahead of Australian Open 2015.

“I’ve heard that the new roof on Margaret Court Arena is now finished and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. The Australian fans are always fantastic and I hope they’ll come and experience the finished stadium at my special charity event,” said the 14-time Grand Slam champion.

Tennis Australia Commercial Director Richard Heaselgrave and Australian tennis champion Todd Woodbridge hosted guests of Kia and ANZ at the launch function in Shanghai as part of a new series of events scheduled to be rolled out in Asia over the next 12 months.

“Events like this show how serious the Australian Open is about doing business and promoting the sport and our events in Asia,” Heaselgrave said.

“It’s wonderful to have a champion like Rafael Nadal, a true friend of the Australian Open, associated with our event.

“This is just the beginning of our new focus in the region which will see us grow and create new content for multiple platforms, increasing exposure and opportunities for our partners,” Heaselgrave continued.

> All Australian Open 2015 tickets are on sale now