Popular Bahamian retired tennis player Mark Knowles has teamed up with Baha Mar resort to put on the first ever Baha Mar Cup that will benefit the victims of Hurricane Dorian across Abaco and Grand Bahama. It is slated for the weekend of November 7-10, 2019.
The cup will feature a pro-am tournament pitting professional tennis legends against devoted fans, exhibition matches with appearances from surprise celebrities, Baha Mar’s first official UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) tournament, the Baha Mar Futures Cup and other events held throughout Baha Mar Racquet Club’s nine tennis courts, including hard, har-tru clay and grass surfaces.
“It’s a real opportunity to give back to the community. Baha Mar has always been about giving back to the community and this is a nice platform for The Bahamas that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian. It is a real opportunity for us to come together and bring down a lot of tennis pros from across the globe to come down and really get behind this initiative and effort. It is going to be a tremendous event and I am looking forward to it,” Knowles said.
The cup will feature professional players such as Americans Andy Roddick and James Blake; and German Tommy Haas on the court putting on a show. Knowles, who will also be playing, said other players reached out to him who wanted to play but because of scheduling they are unable to make it.
American teenage tennis sensation, Coco Gauff, will also grace the court. She recently qualified and competed at the French Open, where she upset number 44 Venus Williams in three straight sets, followed by Wimbledon, where at 15 years old, she was the youngest professional player to compete at the U.S. Open where she played against world number one and defending champion Naomi Osaka.
She said, “I am proud to join the global tennis community for a weekend of exceptional tennis at Baha Mar, which will directly benefit relief and rebuilding efforts for those affected by Hurricane Dorian.”
There will be about 12 professionals in total and several amateurs will play doubles with the professionals.
There will be a lot of charitable prizes ranging from experiences to autographed tennis equipment. One such player who will be giving away prizes is Nick Kyrgios, a resident here who, according to Knowles, texted him right after the storm.
Krygios told Knowles that he would have loved to be a part of the event, but he gave Knowles a signed racket and a shirt. He also offered to take two guests with him inside the players’ lounge at the Queen’s Club event next year.
World number two ranked player and 19-time champion, Spanish player Rafael Nadal also reached out to Knowles after the storm.
The Next Gen Cup finals is that weekend and the weekend following that is the Nitto Cup Finals.
As to how the funds will be divided, Knowles said: “Baha Mar will be dictating those terms. They have their own foundation which has been about giving back to the Bahamas. After Hurricane Dorian the initiative shifted ever so slightly as far as 100 percent of the funds are going to go directly to Hurricane Dorian Relief.”
For Knowles, who is a former Grand Slam Champion, Hurricane Dorian hit close to home as his sister and stepfather operated businesses in Hope Town, Abaco. He said they have lost everything in the hurricane.
The former number one ranked doubles player was in New York at the time covering the U.S Open when the storm hit those islands.
On Thursday and Friday, the action begins at 9 a.m. and wraps up at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, November 9, at 9 a.m., there will be a tennis clinic for the young players from across Nassau and the Out Islands. It will help them with drills with the pros. It is an opportunity for the kids to get close to some incredible professionals.
The five-time Olympian looked back on the time when he was a teen and met his tennis idol, Swedish Bjorn Borg. He remembered it helping him with his aspirations so he wants the younger ones to have the same experience.
Additionally, country music favorite Charles Esten, known for his star role in the hit television series, Nashville, will perform live at Baha Mar on Friday, November 8.
Knowles sees it catching on and he envisions the creation of a partnership, and he is more than willing to do it. He always wanted to help the community as a proud Bahamian.
“I want to have a legacy after I am long gone. I want to see the next champions come from The Bahamas from a tennis perspective. I also want to see our community continue to grow,” Knowles said.
He has been retired since 2012 and misses the competitiveness. Currently he works for the Tennis Channel and is still representing The Bahamas everywhere he goes, he said. He stays close to the game because it has given him a lot.
Knowles has hosted his own tennis tournament for 13 years – The Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational.
The Tennis Channel will air the tournaments in November.
Knowles, who partnered with Canadian Daniel Nestor, won the 2002 Australian Open, the 2004 U.S Open and the 2007 French open doubles.
For more information on tickets and participating in The Baha Mar Cup tennis tournament, visit www.bahamar.com.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism
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