Legends championships: Tennis great Jim Courier says Cayman wins the advantage

Former world number one tennis player Jim
Courier is known for his impressive work ethic, practicing above and beyond
what is expected of him, and his efforts have paid off with a remarkable career
in the sport. Sometimes, though, things just happen by chance.

In March 2007, he was at a tournament in
Key Biscayne where he “bumped into” Dragon Bay developer Mike Ryan, who is a
huge tennis fan. “I didn’t know him personally, but we had mutual friends, so
we started talking and he invited me down to Cayman,” says Courier.

“We struck up a friendship, and lo and
behold, I’ve been coming back ever since.” This friendship, it might be fair to
say, became the stuff of Legends – the tennis tournament hosted and sponsored
by Dragon Bay and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, that is.

The following year, Courier and a group of
elite players including John McEnroe, Wayne Ferreira and Jimmy Arias,
participated in the first Legends Championships to take place in the Cayman
Islands, which has since become an annual fixture. This year’s event is set for
5-7 November, with first serve for the charity Pro-Am Tournament slated for 4
November.

Hosting the tournament was a natural fit
for Dragon Bay and the Islands as a whole, Courier explains.

“We had the Champions Series up and running
and Mike loves to play. He has such a wonderful facility here so we talked
about this being a great spot to have the biggest tournament in the entire
Caribbean. Mike committed to it and we committed to it and we’ve been off and
running. There is nothing of this magnitude in the Caribbean.

“This island has what you want. The Ritz
has the beautiful tennis facility, and obviously the proximity for the players
to be at the hotel and have everything on campus is a big, big plus. It’s all
five-star, first-class premier down here.”

The destination has become a big draw for
the players, and for Courier the choice could not be clearer. “If you’ve been
here, you know,” he explains. “It’s such a spectacular spot and Mike and his
team make everyone feel so welcome. If you’re going to work some place, this is
a pretty good place to do it.”

Courier’s enthusiasm for the tournament and
for Cayman makes him a natural ambassador and an enthusiastic participant in
the event. “It’s such a spectacular site to play in, such an intimate gathering
for the crowd. The crowd is right up close and personal with all of the
players.

“Players like Stefan Edberg and Marat
Safin, both (previously ranked) number one in the world, coming to play here
for the first time this year, I think is something really special.”

For those players who have yet to take part
in the Legends Championships, Courier says that he doesn’t have to work too
hard to get them interested, “(I tell them) we have a great event and a
beautiful island. We’re playing in early November, the weather should be
perfect and, by the way, you can come early and stay late and have an
incredible vacation with a little bit of work in between.”

Another attraction for Courier is the
opportunity to give something back. Proceeds from the Pro-Am Tournament, as in
previous years, will benefit the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. “Every public
event that we do for the Champions Series has a charity partner and the Crisis
Centre certainly is a very worthy cause.”

The Pro-Am has a new format that Courier is
excited about from the perspective of the amateur participants.

“This year’s Pro-Am is really something
special. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. There’s no other
opportunity like this; you can’t do it anywhere else.

“This is an extended multi-day Pro-Am where
you’re really on the court competing with the pros. I would liken it to the
Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament where you’re able to play alongside the
pros. 

“You get to see what Stefan Edberg’s kick
serve really looks like and what Marat Safin’s backhand looks like. It’s all
right there for you.” 

Courier also feels it is important to offer
the public an opportunity to see the tennis stars in action, and he and the
other pros will be participating in a free street event on Saturday, November
6.

“The Legends is being held in an intimate
stadium and not everyone can get over to The Ritz-Carlton, so this is a chance
for the public to see us hitting some balls around. We wanted to make sure that
everyone could see a little bit of the tennis. 

“We have set up in town squares before at
other Champions Series events and those have been very well-received. This will
be the first time we are doing one here and I’m looking forward to it. It will
be fun to do.”

He is hoping to attract Cayman’s younger
tennis enthusiasts as well to the event. Courier views these occasions as
unique opportunities to get children involved in tennis and develop a healthy
attitude towards sports in general. “There are some really great qualities that
sports can bring about in developing children. Things like responsibility,
honesty – because in tennis we call our own lines – integrity, setting goals,
dealing with disappointment. Tennis isn’t the only sport that teaches but it
certainly has its pluses.”

Not to mention that through a mutual love
of the sport Courier met Ryan and discovered Cayman. Whenever the tennis star
comes down, he heads for The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

I’ve stayed in the
hotel several times; I’ve stayed in The Residences several times. There is a
reason it is ranked the number one resort in the Caribbean. It is superior in
every way.”

Apart from the tennis, he came to visit a
few years ago with his then-girlfriend and now wife, Susanna. The couple was
just married in August of this year. They came to ring in New Year’s 2009 and
spent a week here. 

“We had a really special week. We played
golf, we played tennis, we went to the spa. We took advantage of all the
amenities of The Ritz-Carlton. The New Year’s fireworks display was really
something special. And we had some incredible meals.”

On one of his trips to Cayman, Courier recalls
spending a memorable day with Ryan, which included what the Dragon Bay
developer has been recommending to all who will listen: commuting by boat.

“One thing that was really very cool was
Mike and I going from The Ritz-Carlton in a boat over to his house and playing
tennis over there. I love being out on the water and going there in the early
morning when the sun’s coming up, or at sunset when the sun’s going down, that
was pretty sweet.

“I have to say, you would be hard-pressed
to find a better commute than Mike’s. If you’re on the boat with him, you see
it. It’s a short commute, there’s never any traffic, and it’s gorgeous. I think
it would be a perfect way to get your head clear before you came into work and
to clear it after work, too.”

Courier plans to return to Cayman with his
wife as soon as they can. “We’re always looking for pockets of time to be able
to come back here. Life gets a little bit busy. But if you get a chance to
unplug and can make it down here, this is as good as it gets. It really is.
We’ve been lucky enough to come here several times and we’ll be coming back.”

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Jim Courier and Mike Ryan.
Submitted.

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