Legends endorse fierce serves

Sir Richard Branson feels tennis is a prime avenue to stay in shape.

Branson, 62, was in the Cayman Islands last week for the annual Legends Tennis Championship and stated he enjoyed his time here.

“It was great, I really enjoyed it,” Sir Branson said. “Greg Norman did alright and we all had fun. Tennis is a great way to stay fit and I love to stay fit.

“It was great being in Cayman, I enjoyed my time here and it’s a beautiful Island with great people. I hope to come back.”

Branson, an international business tycoon, headlined this year’s tournament alongside Norman, a golf legend. Branson would win the celebrity doubles segment with Jimmy Arias at The Courts at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. The pair would beat Norman and Stefan Edberg 3-1 in the final.

Edberg, 46, continued his unbeaten dominance in Cayman, winning the men’s singles segment for the second time in three years. The Swedish maestro won back in 2010. This time around, he would defeat South African star Wayne Ferreira 8-5. Both have a budding rivalry, throwing some playful verbal jabs at each other after their match.

“Stefan was lucky, maybe there will be a rematch next year,” Ferreira said. “Like great wine, the older you get, the better you get. As for Cayman, it’s nice to me so I will keep coming back.”

“I should compete next year, I made a good choice to get here,” Edberg said. “It feels like home. Coming from Europe, you know how it is: you enjoy the great water, beaches and weather.

“I really enjoyed my time here, it was a good championship with great players. As for Wayne, there is a saying that you make your own luck. With practice, maybe he can create his own luck.”

American Thomas Blake and Croatian Iva Majoli would win the mixed doubles segment, besting Murphy Jensen and Martina Hingis 8-7 in the final. In the local junior final, 12-year-olds Bobby Lomax and Harrison Clough battled it out with Lomax winning 6-4. While they did not win, it should be noted that the world’s top Under-14 junior female player in American Ali “Tornado” Black and Brazilian prodigy Liz Bogarin, 19, played here.

Blake, 34, competed in the tournament last year and states the event continues to improve.

“It was fun last year and this year I played with a great partner,” Blake said. “I also had a plan to see Stingray City and see more of the Island this year.

“I still play a bit but I’m not up to the full-time travel like I’m used to. I was coaching a little bit in the summer with juniors.”

Indeed, a common theme among the former tennis greats is that they continue to play and train youngsters. Both Edberg and Hingis, 32, are former world number one players who share their passion among the youth.

“My last year on tour was 1996 and I still have a good playing temperament,” Edberg said. “It’s a great game and I play regularly once or twice a week. I used to play more before that but it helps to do workouts with juniors now. Plus my sons play doubles now. I do it to play with insight, for enjoyment and keep the body going.

“This was my third time in Cayman, my second for Legends,” Hingis said. “I played golf, it’s such a beautiful place. It was great to be back in Cayman, I was grateful to come back and the crowd brings the best out of me. I hope to come back many more times.

“I’m playing with juniors now. It took me three months after I stopped playing professionally to realize how much I miss it. After regularly playing with juniors, my hope now is that they get on the tour and win.”

Arguably the lasting legacy of the Legends tournament is its impact on local tennis. More than $15,000 worth of equipment was donated to the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands’ junior programme. Some 1,500 local youth and numerous schools were able to watch the tournament for free.

In addition, the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre earned proceeds from a raffle with more than $15,000 worth of jewellery and prizes.

Ferreira had words of advice for budding Roger Federers as they utilize the new gear.

“Stay in school and the most important thing is to have fun while you’re doing it; even though it becomes a job. I played 16 years on tour, 25 weeks a year. It’s very hard to be successful. What’s important is to learn every single time you’re on the court and win more than you lose.”

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