By RENALDO DORSETT
SOME of the most well known names in tennis made their annual visit to the Bahamas to support a charitable cause during a weekend of sport and fellowship.
The 13th edition of the Mark Knowles Celebrity Invitational was deemed an “incredible success” by the event’s namesake and chairman. “It was fantastic, we had a great array of professionals as usual and the support of the public was always great. It was well attended. The weather was great, we had a fabulous time and we had fantastic tennis,” Knowles said.
Total donations to charities have reached $870,000 over the course of the event, and Knowles said the group hopes to surpass the $1 million mark this year.
“We always try to raise at least $100,000 but we know in the past few years we surpassed that and we are hoping we did well beyond that at this event,” Knowles said. “We have not done the final tally as yet but we had great support from our sponsors and based on our early calculations we think we achieved our goal. We just hope to make enough money to truly make a difference in people’s lives. The goal is to improve the lives of those less fortunate but we definitely think it was a success. We should have the numbers together sometime this week.”
On the court, Denis Kudla and Sabine Lisicki won 6-3 over Jean-Julien Rojer and Taylor Townsend. Lisicki won 6-3 over Lucie Safarova in ladies’ singles. Knowles teamed up with Max Mirnyi to defeat face Rojer and Oliver Marach in men’s doubles, 6-2.
The weekend began with a cocktail party at “The Barn” at Lyford Cay, which was highlighted by a memorabilia auction.
Featured items on the auction list included framed autographed rackets from world No.1 and 32 time Grand Slam title winner Serena Williams, Lisicki and former world No.1 Andy Roddick.
“The fundraising and the auction was great, we had great things from Andy Rodick, Sabine Lisicki and the greatest female tennis player of all time Serena Williams so we had really special items,” Knowles said.
“This year definitely continued the momentum that we had the past few years. This is the 13th year and we get better every year. We had the support of the Ministry of Toursim and Atlanits and our other various sponsors, without them none of this would be possible, we hope they continue to help us in the future.
Established in 2001, The Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational is a charity event hosted by the former world No. 1 doubles player which annually attracts some of the major names on the WTA and ATP tours.
Some of the charities who have benefitted include the Sassoon Pediatric Heart Foundation, the Cancer Society, The Association of the Physically Disabled, The Boy Scouts of the Bahamas, the Special Olympics and scholarships for promising junior tennis players. This year’s event was headlined by Lisicki, the 2013 Wimbledon ladies singles finalist.
The 24-year-old German phenom is currently ranked No.15 on the WTA tour.
Townsend, the 17-year-old American, was the former world No.1 junior before he turned professional in 2012.
Safarova of the Czech Republic is currently ranked No. 29 in singles and No.18 in doubles while Mirnyi of Belarus is currently ranked No. 22 in doubles, with claim to 48 doubles titles over his career.
Rojer, of the Netherlands, has nine career doubles titles and is currently ranked No.15 in doubles while Marach is ranked No.37 in doubles and Kudla is currently ranked No.109 in singles.