On the strength of how well the inaugural International Tennis Federation event went at the Cayman Islands Tennis Club in South Sound, tournament director Karl Hale is confident it can develop into a much bigger event in the future.
Hale worked with Rob Seward, the Cayman Islands Tennis Club head coach, and they wrapped up the week-long tournament on Sunday with the finals.
As well as international pros from as far afield as Japan, Switzerland and the U.S., this tournament gave plenty of Cayman-based players a chance to compete. They included Steve Surrey and Mark Macfee in the doubles.
“Everyone loved it, including the ITF, players and officials, and the Cayman Islands Tennis Club was an amazing host,” Hale said.
“We would like to grow this event here slowly every year. We would also like to have the event assist development of tennis on the island.”
Hana Mandlikova, a four-time Grand Slam winner, was here to watch her daughter compete.
Hale, 48, won the men’s over 35s tournament. He has been playing and organizing tennis since he was a 10-year-old learning the game in Jamaica, his birthplace. His older brother Rob, who now lives in Cayman, inspired and coached him.
Karl is based in Toronto and holds dual Jamaican/Canadian citizenship. The main event he organizes is the week-long Rogers Cup in July where the world’s best pros play. Past winners have included Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams.
Hale said the satisfaction he gets out of tennis “is the camaraderie of meeting interesting people, exercise and fun.”
His other sporting interests included hockey, basketball and soccer, but winning the Wimbledon tennis championship remains in his dreams.
Seward said, “Besides the ITF and Tennis Federation of Cayman, we’re really thankful to the Ministry of Sports for being the primary sponsors, as well as Cayman Physiotherapy for volunteering their time throughout the week.”
Sports minister Osbourne Bodden said, “We have been supporting the work of the Cayman Islands Tennis Federation and the Tennis Club to raise the profile of the sport both locally and overseas through these tournaments.
“The Tennis Club has developed some of the best facilities for the sport in the region and from all reports they have developed the capacity to host quality tournaments and we look forward to their continued success in this area.”
He added that the tournaments “have tremendous potential for creating sports tourism opportunities for the Cayman islands, especially with the junior tournaments.”
He believes that these tournaments, when coupled with programs to make tennis more accessible, will benefit the sport and the Cayman Islands generally.
Bodden added, “I am actively seeking to expand opportunities for grassroots exposure to the sport in the eastern districts and hope to make this a reality before the end of this financial year.”