Tennis legends delight Cayman fans

John McEnroe, Daniela Hantuchová, Chris Evert and Jim Courier.

Star power shined as brightly as the flood lights that beamed down on the court, as three former world number one tennis players – John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Chris Evert – were the feature acts at Legends at Camana Bay last weekend.

A few hundred people were on hand Friday night, 17 February, to witness McEnroe and Courier play each other in a singles exhibition before they were joined by Evert and former top five player Daniela Hantuchová for mixed doubles.

In a match that was surprisingly competitive as it was entertaining, McEnroe, who turned 58 the day before, beat Courier, 12 years his junior, 8-6 in a pro set.

They were later joined by the ladies for a set of mixed doubles. McEnroe paired with Slovakian Hantuchová and Courier with Evert. McEnroe, who kept up lively banter with spectators throughout the evening, got a double delight as he and Hantuchová won 6-4.

“We were so happy to see it was a full house, very super pumped up and we gave it the best we could and the best we had in us and hopefully you enjoyed the evening,” McEnroe told cheering spectators before going bare-chested and throwing his shirt into the crowd, much to their delight.

Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles during her career, enjoyed her rapport with a group of male fans, whose support didn’t equate to results on the court. “They started supporting me and then we lost six points in a row but that’s okay. You were great,” she said before asking those in attendance to sing happy birthday for McEnroe.

Another noticeable face was that of Mark Knowles, the Bahamian former top-ranked doubles specialist. He was in the chair as umpire, providing lively commentary and banter with the players.

Part of the fun was a raffle to win a chance to return serve from the legends with the funds helping Special Olympics Cayman Islands. Nicola Holdsworth won that chance and had a blast in doing so, even showboating when she wowed the crowd returning McEnroe’s serve.

Earlier, Cayman’s top juniors got a chance to share the spotlight. Jade Wilkinson played a set against Yana Koraleva, the former pro who beat her a week earlier to win the Cayman Open singles title. Koraleva beat the 16-year-old again by a score of 6-2. Callum Theaker, 16, played an exhibition against Mica Koll, who won 6-3.


The next morning, the legends were up early for a breakfast meet-and-greet before taking part in a clinic, which featured around 30 children in addition to some adults.

“The clinics are really about getting the community involved and giving people a chance to hit with these legendary tennis players when they are here, advance the sport as much as possible, get people as excited and interested in it…for those real tennis buffs, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for them to hit with the legends,” said Dominic Ross, a community development project manager at Dart.

“The players are only here for a short time. Unfortunately, we’re not able to get it out to everybody that would like to be involved but we do try to fit as many kids in as we can and make it as useful as we can for their benefit,” he added. also caught up with Courier, who dominated the pro circuit in the early 1990s.

“This was amazing with the kids,” he said. “To see the kids having this much fun, spending time on the court with each other and learning a little bit about the sport.”

As a regular face at the event in recent years, Courier explained why coming to Cayman for the Legends event is an attractive option on his calendar.  “It’s so nice to be here. It’s definitely not hard work to get on the plane when you know you’re coming to Cayman. I’m excited to see old friends, make new ones and also get a chance to play, which I love to do. It’s a wonderful combination,” he said.

The legends pose with ball boys and girls, and the linespeople.


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