English business magnate, investor and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson made quite an impression on Monday at the Rogers CupCanada. The founder of the Virgin Group was at Centre Court to toss the coin ahead of Grigor Dimitrov’s first-round match against Yuichi Sugita and then went on to watch the Bulgarian in action before heading over to one of the practice courts. It seemed Mr. Branson felt like playing some tennis and he found the perfect partner at the practice court.
The 66-year-old billionaire went on to enjoy a session of tennis with the home favourite and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic. The ensuing battle was one for the fans with both of them playing to the crowd with cheeky gestures and enlisting the help of various paraphernalia.
To even the odds (or so they say), Raonic played with a wooden racquet while Branson wielded a state-of-the-art one. As the session began, Branson was seen shielding himself from the ‘fierce’ sun with the help of an umbrella, which also doubled up as a brilliant shield to protect himself from Raonic’s famously fast serves. Not one to shy away from drama, Branson’s next action of note was to scream ‘OUT’ and convince the onlookers as to where the ball landed as Raonic floated a shot over the baseline.
The Canadian ace was doing well with a wooden racquet but Branson wasn’t so bad either. The business tycoon proved that he was more than just an avid follower of the game by unleashing a crisp forehand. He did not stop there though – a steady backhand (no less than a one-handed one) was on display next.
At the end of the colourful and thoroughly enjoyable session, niceties resumed and Branson and Raonic were seen greeting each other happily at the net. An autograph session followed as Raonic and Branson satisfied the clamouring from the fans in Toronto. Ever the gentleman, Branson went on to wish Raonic all the best for his Rogers Cup campaign, where he is seeded 4th, before remarking to the journalists present there – “Milos is a delightful player. Canada should be proud of him”
Incidentally, Raonic had made history at the recently held Wimbledon Championships, when he became the first ever Canadian man to reach a grand Slam final.