The Legends Championships tennis tournament draws some of the top players from yesteryear to The Courts at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman each year. The opportunity to see the likes of Stefan Edberg and Martina Hingis in action again is definitely a draw for tennis fans, a draw that in combination with the allure of the Cayman Islands can prove irresistible.
This year the event coincides with the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit, creating a draw for attendees of the summit to make a vacation out of it and have their families join them in the Cayman Islands.
A new feature of this year’s event is Celebrity Tennis, which will feature the owner of Virgin, Sir Richard Branson, as well as former world No. 1 golfer and celebrated golf course designer Greg Norman take to the court to showcase their tennis skill.
Although the event is designed to draw international travellers to the Cayman Islands, it is not an event that is so exclusive that it is not accessible to locals. The ticket prices start at $25 in order to allow greater appeal to the community. There is also opportunity for local players to qualify for the tournament through local qualifiers, with the top players earning the right to take to the court to face some of the biggest names the game of tennis has produced in recent years.
The Legends tournament’s community roots extend beyond spectators and participants.
“The community benefits are a huge part of the event, with two local charities benefitting. The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands are the two charities. There are two reasons we work with them, as the Crisis Centre is dealing with a significant community problem, and the Tennis Federation works on promoting junior sports which we think is a very important way to help kids go in the right direction, so the one is reactive and the one is proactive,” said tournament organiser Dan Kneipp.
Last year the tournament managed to put more than $20,000 in cash and benefits through to the two charities, with the organisers aiming even higher this year.
“This year there will be a raffle exclusively for the Crisis Centre, while $15,000 worth of tennis equipment will be donated to the Tennis Federation,” said Kneipp.
The tournament also plays a vital role in the promotion and development of tennis in local schools, with free viewing sessions for students as well as free tickets on offer for schools.
The donation of tennis equipment helps support the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands in its aim of developing tennis among the youth of Cayman.
“The Tennis Federation works to promote the sport in schools – they work across all schools but their big focus is the government schools. They are about to begin work on opening the first public school junior courts and the donated equipment helps them put their resources to projects like that and coaching, rather than having to spend money on buying stuff like racquets and balls,” said Kneipp.
Dunlop is again a sponsor and will be coming down to present the donated equipment to the Tennis Federation.
Appealing to the right audience
According to Kneipp the Legends Tennis tournament appeals to a sector of the market to which the entire Cayman experience would appeal, creating an event that builds on Cayman’s existing tourism product.
“Tennis is one of the more affluent sports, particularly once you are looking at an older tennis player who is already successful in business. For those players, what is interesting for them is watching their heroes from when they were younger, so for that slightly older demographic the legends tennis is a perfect fit,” he said.
The family friendly nature is also likely to appeal to these visitors, which means that they will choose to bring the whole family down to the Cayman Islands for the event, in preference to going elsewhere in the Caribbean where such events are not on offer.
“Hosting it at a resort like The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and working with sponsors of the calibre that we have involved in the Legends Tennis allows us to make it a really top quality event,” said Kneipp.
An important part of the appeal of the event is the quality of players it is able to attract, with the likes of Stefan Edberg and Martina Hingis headlining this year’s tournament.
“The players always make it a priority to get back to Cayman. Once they have been here they understand what we are trying to do with the charity aspect and the fun aspect,” said Kneipp.
It is this fun aspect that makes it easy for the organisers to get previous participants back to the event, with many looking forward to the event all year.
“It’s actually much easier for us to get a returning player than a new player, because the returning players know what our goal is, and our goal is that the players should be having fun. So instead of it being really serious we want them to have fun both on court and off court. They are going to be at Seven Mile beach, at the Ritz, out at Rum Point, or out with the stingrays at the Sandbar,” said Kneipp.
It is the attractions off the court that really makes the event unique from the players’ point of view.
“Some of the players are bringing their whole family. I would like to say it says something about our event, but it says much more about the Cayman Islands,” said Kneipp.
The most important part is that the participants and the audience understand what the organisers are trying to create.
“We’re not trying to create Wimbledon; we’re trying to create a social networking event,” said Kneipp.
This year the fun of the tournament coincides with a much more serious event in the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit.
“The conference is a totally different business, but they have been scheduled at the same time to really maximise benefits of both events,” said Kneipp.
“For Sir Richard, I think it was actually more interesting for him to come over and play tennis. He is a tennis fanatic, and it’s been very interesting seeing what a great attraction the tennis is to people attending the conference,” said Kneipp.
The tournament will take place from 30 October to 3 November, featuring men’s singles, mixed doubles and celebrity tennis.
The tournament will feature players including Martina Hingis, Stefan Edberg, Wayne Ferreira, Iva Majoli, Murphy Jensen, Jimmy Arias and Ashley Fisher.
The event is sponsored by KPMG, the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Financial Review, Deutsche Bank, Mourant Ozannes, Paladyne and Virgin Unite.
For more information on the event, visit www.compasscayman.com/tennis