Visiting tennis pros left quite an impression in the Cayman Islands. Some of the people that are happiest with the recent Legends tournament are the sponsors.
A number of local companies stepped up to support the 2011 competition, which has taken place on these shores for over four years. One of them was KPMG, the title sponsor this year. Managing partner Roy McTaggart states the auditing firm has plans to back the tournament well into the future.
“What a great weekend of tennis,” McTaggart said. “We saw great, fun tennis and a superb job of organizing. The players are all winners in my book. I hope you (the Cayman public) take the memories of this weekend into next year. KPMG will be back next year as title sponsor.”
The tournament wrapped up last week at The Courts at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. The event attracted a number of major names including Jennifer Capriati and Jimmy Arias. The big winners would be Martina Hingis and Mark Philippousis, who nabbed the mixed doubles trophy with a 8-5 victory over Chanda Rubin and Murphy Jensen. Wayne Ferreira would win the singles championship over Thomas Blake in a thrilling 8-7 final that featured a 12-set tiebreaker.
For Ritz-Carlton owner and developer Michael Ryan, the presence of those stars was a boon for local tennis.
“It’s been wonderful, fantastic,” Ryan said. “I hope you, the public, look forward to next year as we make it bigger and better. The players welcomed the chance to come. I’m ecstatic to have people come to do something extraordinary.
“It’s a great tennis experience complimented by no bigger coaching name than Nick Bollettieri. With him it’s such a great bonus that he’s so focused to develop the youth in the community, outside of tennis.”
Indeed the Ritz played a big part in the staging of the tournament. Not only did they source a clay court for the pros to play on and sort out accommodations, the resort staged a number of junior clinics. Over a 1,000 children took part in a matter of days. For Bollettieri, who has trained the likes of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, the passion for the sport is what will stay with him.
“Thanks to everyone who has shared in the vision over the last few years,” Bollettieri said. “I believe in giving the child the opportunity to achieve. I’m so proud as the pros were full of enthusiasm to develop the most precious asset: our kids. Thank you to the parents and kids who came out.”
The competition lived up to its promise of having a greater emphasis on the youth. Over $12,000 of tennis equipment was donated to the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands’ junior programme. In addition a junior division was staged in the tournament, which Alex Leonard, 17, won over William Hayward, 15.
For tournament organiser Dan Kneipp, the presence of the juniors was at the heart of the Legends meet.
“The backbone is what the event can do for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and local tennis,” Kneipp said. “Over $10K worth of tennis equipment was donated to local tennis and the proceeds from the silent auction all went to the crisis centre.
“We had about 1,200 kids over something like two days and the enthusiasm was fantastic. It’s fantastic to see what the tennis federation is doing here. It’s not everyday we get world class athletes here. All of the players were great and are nicer in person than you can imagine. They even said some of the services here are better than at some grand slam events.”
For Crisis Centre director Renee Carroll-Grate, the tournament’s long-standing support is an added comfort considering the current economic climate.
“We’ve been supported over the years by the Legends tennis tournament,” Carroll-Grate said. “Not many organizations have supported the crisis centre through the economic downturn. We are very grateful for the support.”