More stars will grace Legends

Tennis fans in the Cayman Islands will see no shortage of stars on and off the court.

The upcoming Legends Tennis Championship figures to reach new heights with more international figures coming to these shores. Event director Dan Kneipp states the buzz around the event has already been tremendous.

“Legends Tennis provides spectators with an intimate tournament environment that is unique to this venue,” Kneipp said. “With seating for 1,000 spectators, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

“Fans in Cayman are really looking forward to having the opportunity to see some of the recent greats of the game, up close on court, as well as celebrities Sir Richard Branson and Greg Norman.

“The response to celebrity tennis has been overwhelming. Norman is a former world No.1 golfer so we’re expecting a high level of competitive tennis from him. The overwhelming excitement is the chance to see Sir Branson – one of the world’s most famous personalities.”

The Courts at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, will host Legends next week from Tuesday, 30 October, to Saturday, 3 November. The tournament figures to boost local tennis and charities, namely the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.

A nonprofit event, Legends will donate more than $15,000 worth of equipment to the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands’ junior programme and use a raffle with more than $15,000 worth of jewellery and prizes to give proceeds to the crisis centre.

With all of the buzz around Norman and Sir Branson going head-to-head in the celebrity doubles segment, it’s easy to forget that the Legends tournament attracts numerous former tennis greats such as Martina Hingis and Stefan Edberg.

Event founder Michael Ryan says the competition will also feature the world’s top Under-14 junior female player in American Ali “Tornado” Black.

“Ali is an extremely exciting addition to this year’s tennis tournament,” Ryan said. “Cayman’s juniors will get a chance to literally watch the best junior in the world.

“We continually work to ensure the Legends Tennis is a great asset to the Cayman community. For years, our charity has been the crisis centre and we’re passionate about the amount of support and funding that we’ve been able to give,” he said. “We also focus on working with the tennis federation and that has included donating tennis equipment to their programme and also offering free tennis matches for the schools to watch. On Wednesday, 31 October, we’ll have free viewing where over 1,500 Cayman juniors will get to watch the tournament for free.”

According to crisis centre executive director Ania Milanowska-Sedgley, money received from the Legends tournament will fund the daily operations of the organisation. Among the areas that will benefit are the emergency shelter, aftercare and outreach programmes.

During the past 11 years, Legends has attracted some of the greatest tennis players in history. For 2012, there will be six former top-10 world-ranked players, including two former world No.1 players.

Edberg and Hingis have, between them, won 23 singles and doubles grand slam titles. Former world No. 4 Iva Majoli from Croatia will make her debut in Cayman. Majoli caused one of the greatest upsets when she beat Hingis in the 1997 French Open final.

This year’s lineup will also include crowd favourites Murphy Jensen and Jimmy Arias (both are French Open doubles champions) and Wayne Ferreira. Among the competition categories are men’s singles, mixed doubles, celebrity doubles and a women’s singles exhibition.

Kneipp says most of the returning players were eager to come back.

“Most of our Legends players are players that have been to Cayman before and request to play again,” he said. “The players love coming to Cayman and participating in the Legends Tennis and a lot of them describe it as one of their favourite tournaments and favourite destinations.

“It should be bigger and better than ever with the addition of Celebrity Tennis. Last year’s event sold out and we anticipate a similar response for 2012. We have the extra benefit of over 40 staff from local recruitment agency Stepping Stones, who have very kindly volunteered their time to help with ensuring the tournament runs as smoothly as possible.”

Ticket prices start at $25 and can be purchased through Cayman Box Office. Stadium seating allows for up to 1,100 spectators each night. Free viewing is available for schools and the public next Tuesday when the Cayman players will battle for qualifying positions.

Schools may coordinate a free viewing session for the tournament by contacting the tennis federation at [email protected] For schedule and tickets, visit caycompass.com/tennis or e-mail [email protected]

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