Legends helped profile juniors

When international tennis stars rolled into Cayman last month, they brought much more than their racquets and best shots; they took time to mould Cayman’s future tennis players.

A plethora of international stars from the last two decades headlined the 2011 edition of the KPMG Legends Tennis tournament at the Residences of the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman.

Swiss sensation Martina Hingis and her American counterpart Jennifer Capriati headlined the three day tournament which raised thousands for junior tennis and the Cayman Crisis Centre. Jimmy Arias, the perennial favourite, came again, Chanda Rubin for the first time and it was nice to see Nick Bollettieri inspiring the kids as he always does. Credit should go to Ritz-Carlton developer Michael Ryan for meshing it all together again.

Local juniors like Simon Butler, James Priaulx, Callum Theaker and Daniel Reid also got a chance to play in a big tournament atmosphere. It was also nice to see Panav Jha, the stand-out teenager hoping to pursue a career as a pro, playing in the singles here.

Hingis teamed up with Australian heavy hitter Mark Philippoussis and claimed the mixed doubles title, a new feature to the tournament, while veteran Wayne Ferreira was the singles winner. The extremely skilful Hingis was a perfect compliment to the power of Philippoussis, who at times during the competition unleashed his trademark serve. When the pros weren’t on court they took time out to work with several students and for the first time in the tournament’s ten year history more than 1,350 students got the chance to the watch tournament action for free; a master stroke by the tournament organisers to include more of the Cayman community in the sport.

Dan Kneipp, the tournament director, said: “The interest in this year’s competition was evident in each evening session with thousands of locals soaking in the top level tennis and the theatrics of Murphy Jensen and Arias who were guest umpires when not playing.

“Not lost in the lively atmosphere was the need for the competition to have a charitable element – and again the Cayman Crisis Centre benefitted from the proceeds of a silent auction.

“So while the big name tennis stars drew the crowds and changed the lives of the juniors the KPMG Legends Tennis tournament left another indelible mark with its community service.”