There can be little doubt now that the KPMG Legends tennis tournament at the Ritz-Carlton courts is one of the premier masters events on the planet.
Small and brief as it is, the annual event is widely popular with top players and celebrities alike. Testament to that was Sir Richard Branson and Greg Norman wanting to come back as soon as possible and players like Martina Hingis and Stefan Ebberg pencilling in the next dates they are available.
The Cayman Islands has a glowing reputation for hosting top level events despite its smallness and that was evident last week by the reaction of players, fans and officials alike.
The added bonus for locals was that juniors got to rub shoulders with some idols, received $15,000 of Dunlop equipment and the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre will benefit by tens of thousands of dollars thanks to the efforts of tournament founder Michael Ryan.
The celebrity doubles was won by Branson and Jimmy Arias who defeated Norman and Edberg 3-2.
Ryan said: “I really thank the sponsors and organisers for making all this possible and also all the great players who turned up. It is testimony that great players come here and ask to come back.
“Raising funds for the crisis centre is very important.” Ryan encouraged the crowd to buy raffle tickets and give cheque donations to help. He also singled out praise to tennis manufacturers Dunlop for donating $15,000 worth of gear to the junior programme.”
Crisis centre executive director Ania Milanowska-Sedgley made a heart-felt thank you to everyone involved in making the whole event another monumental success.
That success was in no part thanks to event director Dan Kneipp who worked tirelessly to ensure it all went smoothly.
“The tournament was great,” he said. “To have players like Stefan Edberg and Martina Hingis, who were former world No.1s is an absolute privilege.
“For our juniors we think it is very special that we had the world No.1 for Under-15 juniors playing Hingis – Ali ‘Tornado’ Black – from the United States. What a great role model for Cayman juniors to have a look at.
“We’re also grateful that our celebrity players Sir Richard Branson and Greg Norman played a great match with Mike Ryan, Edberg and Hingis which was very popular.
“The thing that we are most proud about is that this event goes to the community. We’ve got $15,000 of junior tennis equipment which goes to the tennis federation that we donate and we’ve got a raffle with all our proceeds going to the crisis centre which we hope to generate over $10,000 to them.
“There are so many companies which we wish to thank for what they are doing. Major sponsors like KPMG but I particularly want to single out Michael Ryan, the founder of this tournament. Without him we just wouldn’t have Legends tennis.
“We’re already in conversation with Stefan Edberg if it can work out for him for the tournament next year. It would be three out of four years he’s been here. Martina too. I’m not going to get tired of watching these players.
“We’ll try to find some new additions next year. When we asked Sir Richard Branson what we had to do to get him back and he said: ‘Invite me, I’d love to come back.’ So, we’ll certainly see if it can work for his schedule and we’d love to have him back. It is so easy to get people to come to this tournament and the important thing is to make sure we get the support of the Cayman tennis fans and community.
“The community has to make sure it gets behind these types of events otherwise they don’t happen. It’s a great tournament for the Cayman community and we want to make sure it goes on for another ten years, but it does take a lot of work.”
Saturday’s juniors Bobby Lomax and Harrison Clough are only 12 but they are already determined to be champion pros. Kneipp is pleased they are inspired.
“That’s fantastic and if we end up with the next Rafael Nadal coming out of the Cayman Islands, that’s wonderful,” he said.
“More than that though, is what we hope happens is that we get more and more kids learning work ethic through sport. They learn good sportsmanship and how to deal with loss and the benefits of looking after yourself.
“There are a lot of things that sport can teach a person, about being a better citizen and member of the community and that’s part of the reason why I get involved in these sorts of events. That’s what I learned as a kid and we hope this generation of kids will learn healthy living and all the benefits that sports brings.”