By Matt Fitzgerald
(December 12, 2012) -- For the 12th straight year, Mark Knowles delivered a weekend of tennis to remember in his home country.
The recently retired 41-year-old welcomed Lindsay Davenport and Sam Querrey among others to the Atlantis, Paradise Island to help raise money for local children's charities at the Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational (MKCTI) in the Bahamas. The proceeds brought in this year topped $100,000, bringing total contributions to around $900,000.
"It was another great year at the 12th MKCTI. We raised a lot of money and had great support from our sponsorships," said Knowles. "We had fantastic players down here, so it's always special. The impetus behind the event is to raise money for those that are in need, and we were very successful doing that again this year."
The main beneficiaries include the Sassoon Heart Foundation (Pediatric), the Cancer Society For Pediatric Care, the Association for the Physically Disabled, the Special Olympics, Mark Knowles Tennis scholarships for promising junior tennis players and numerous additional children's charities.
"It's always great to come here," said Sabine Lisicki. "I've known Mark for quite a few years and it's been a lot of fun to play. The fact that it helps kids makes me always want to come here to help. It's a nice place."
After enjoying a cocktail reception sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Atlantis at Fathoms on December 6, sponsors had the opportunity to team up with the stars in the popular Pro-Am the following day.
Each team was guaranteed two matches in the fun, but competitive tournament with bragging rights on the line. Knowles and Miles Nadal, CEO of MDC Partners, defeated Lisicki and her partner David Demuth for the title, while Brent Haygarth teamed up with Betsy Wannakuwatte to win the consolation bracket over Querrey and Jeremy Stuby.
"The Pro-Am was great," Querrey said. "This is my first time down here and we had a good time. It's something I really enjoyed and I'm hoping to come back again next year."
The players, event organizers and sponsors reunited in the evening for a special dinner at the Ripples Deck, featuring a gourmet buffet and live and silent auctions. The items on offer included signed racquets from Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, a dual photograph signed by Roger Federer and Jack Nicklaus and the dress Serena Williams wore when she won this year's US Open final. The highest-selling item was a US Open poster signed by number of top players, which sold for $6,000.
The invitational was anchored by the tennis exhibition on December 8, where the players were split into two teams. Fans were treated to three sets of tennis, using the World TeamTennis format. Play opened with a mixed doubles match between Lisicki and Knowles against Davenport and former doubles world No. 1 Donald Johnson and was followed by a men's singles encounter featuring Querrey versus Xavier Malisse. In the final match-up, Knowles and Malisse joined forces to take on Querrey and Alex Kuznetsov.
Afterwards, Knowles spoke to the crowd, where he thanked host Atlantis for their hospitality, the sponsors, players and fans for their support and recognized Sir Durward Knowles, the 1964 Olympic gold medalist in sailing. Fans were then treated to a meet and greet with the players.
"Being on the west coast, we don't usually come this far east to vacation, so it's great," said Davenport. "I came here in 1999 and this is my next time here, so it's fun to be able to share it with my family now. Mark has become a good friend over the years, along with [wife] Dawn and their kids. I'm thrilled we were able to come this year."
The Mark Knowles Management Group would like to thank all involved in making this event an annual success and gives its appreciation to players, sponsors, charities, friends and family, fans, and followers who have supported Knowles' charitable endeavors since its inception in 2001.
The 2012 Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational Player Field: Lindsay Davenport, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Brent Haygarth, Donald Johnson, Craig Kardon (Coach to the Stars), Mark Knowles, Alex Kuznetsov, Sabine Lisicki, Xavier Malisse, Asia Muhammad, Yasmin Schnack, Tara Snyder Haygarth and Jesse Witten.
The 2012 Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis Invitational Sponsors: Atlantis, the Bahamas Ministry Of Tourism, MDC Partners, Pictet, Fast Ferries, American Airlines, Ultimate Limo Service, Odyssey Aviation, Ministry of Youth Sports & Culture, H.G.Christie, Everkey Global, The Balmoral, Caribbean Bottling, Kerrygold, Corner Bank, Schooner Bay, S.G.Hambros, Daron & Sheri Roberts, Vince Menard, Alex Pier, Sean & Sarah Farrington, Peter & Pippa Vlasov, Mark & Nancy Holowesko, Chris Day, Sir Durward Knowles, R.E. Barnes, Donald Tomlinson, Graham & Aidie Garner, Dave & Fran Donald, Steve Swords and Peter & Vicky Knowles Andrews.
(Photo Credit: Matt Fitzgerald/MKCTI)