As the co-owner and teaching professional at the Vero Beach Tennis Club and the head tennis coach at Vero Beach High School, James van Deinse does not get many opportunities to play competitive tennis, let along against an ATP World Tour world-ranked tennis pro, with career wins over some of the world’s best players.
But van Deinse had his chance Wednesday in the second round of the $10,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships at The Boulevard club.
After easily winning his first round match in this specially-organized Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) open prize money tennis tournament on Tuesday, van Deinse was drawn to play the event’s No. 2 seed Alejandro Gomez of Colombia, who holds a current ATP World Tour ranking of No. 508. To boot, Gomez holds a career victory over 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and is known as one of the hardest servers in pro tennis, hitting a clocked serves as fast as 142 miles per hour.
Playing on the stadium court at The Boulevard in front of socially distant friends, family and local tennis fans, van Deinse quickly went down 6-1, 5-2, but rallied in spectacular fashion to challenge the seasoned, 29-year-old professional tour player and nearly extend him into a third set before falling 6-1, 7-6(1)
“I kept going for my shots and I kept playing the way I knew I had to play in order to keep up at this level because these guys are so good,” said van Deinse. “My shots started to fall in and my movement picked up a little bit. I felt I was able to get me get some big shots at some big moments that helped me get back into the match.”
Van Deinse said he was well aware of the resume of his opponent entering the match but said he tried to block it out of his mind.
“I look at it as an opportunity to expand my game and to try to go for some shots that I would normally not try to go for and to elevate continually to get to that next level,” said the 30-year-old van Denise, a graduate of Liberty University in Virginia. “My goal is still to play at this level. Each day, I start to try to do some news things and play against these top players who can do that on a more consistent level. In the second set I was able to do that. If I can do more of that and continue to grow, I think my game can get up to that level, slowly but surely.”
In other early matches Wednesday, Sebastian Mendoza of Vero Beach, the top returning player on the Vero Beach High School Tennis team, lost to Connor Krug of Bradenton, Florida 6-0, 6-1 while Emilio Van Cotthem of Vero Beach, a former Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation tennis pupil and last year’s top player for Vero Beach High School, lost 6-0, 6-1 to long-time friend Jack Anthrop of Orlando, now one of the top junior players in the United States who recently just missed out on competing at the French Open junior championships in Paris earlier this month.
Fans can get updated tournament information and results at www.TennisVeroBeach.com Play continues through Sunday.
The popular annual tournament Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, Vero Beach’s leading international sporting event, was originally scheduled for April, but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. It has been played in Vero Beach each year since 1995.
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships is regarded as one of the best entry-level professional tennis tournaments in the world. Proceeds from the event benefit the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the non-profit organization named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, former top 10 tennis star and current U.S. Davis Cup caption, benefits at risk children in Indian River County.
“After many challenging months, we are so relieved to finally be able to host this popular tournament, the biggest annual fundraiser for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, which helps at-risk children in Indian River County lead active and healthy lives, which is now even more important where health and improving one’s immune system is critically important,” said Tom Fish, President Emeritus of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation and the father of Mardy Fish. “Vero Beach is one of the leading tennis towns in the country and we are so thrilled to continue this annual tennis tradition in as normal a circumstance as we safely can.”
The event will be for the first time staged on the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) platform rather than as an International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour event on the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Pro Circuit. Players from around the world will compete for $10,000 in total prize money in singles and doubles, with an increased first prize payout of $3,000 in singles and $1,500 per team winner’s check in doubles. However, ATP Tour ranking points will not be awarded at this year’s event.
Prize money starts in the quarterfinals of singles with a $500 payout. Semifinalists will earn $750 each and the singles runner-up will earn $1,500. The doubles runners-up will split $500.
While the tournament is popular with many of Vero Beach’s robust tennis community, the event will only accommodate about 35 percent of full capacity for social distancing purposes. No public daily tickets will be sold to the event this year, with only sponsors, season-ticket holders and randomly-drawn members of The Boulevard allowed to attend. The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation also asks all attending fans to wear masks while attending the event. For more tournament information, fans can email co-tournament director Randy Walker at Rwalker@NewChapter.com or go to www.MardyFishChidlrensFoundation.org
Some of the past competitors at the USTA Vero Beach Futures have gone on to succeed at the highest levels of professional tennis, winning major singles and doubles titles, Olympic medals and Davis Cup championships and earning No. 1 world rankings. Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion who attained the world No. 1 ranking and helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 2007, competed in Vero Beach in 1999. Thomas Johansson of Sweden, who reached the second round of the Vero Beach Futures in 1995, won the Australian Open seven years later in 2002. Nicolas Massu, the 1998 singles runner-up in Vero Beach, won the singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, beating Fish in the gold medal singles match. Kyle Edmund, the 2013 champion in Vero Beach, helped Great Britain to the Davis Cup title in 2015. Other notable former competitors in Vero Beach include former world No. 2 Magnus Norman, former world No. 4 Tim Henman, 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and most recently new top 10 start Denis Shapovalov, who played in Vero Beach in 2016. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Eight former Vero Beach players have gone on to play Davis Cup for the United States – Roddick, Fish, Taylor Dent, Jared Palmer, Donald Young, Ryan Harrison, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul.
Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,400 children in 15 elementary schools, six middle schools, and several other community organizations in Indian River County, Florida by funding after-school exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs in a safe environment to prepare them for healthy, productive and successful lives. The Foundation introduced the “Six Healthy Habits” in 2012 which are Get Sleep; Drink Water; Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy; Brush and Floss; Make Friends.
Leading tournament sponsors for 2020 include Presenting Sponsor: PNC Bank, Grand Slam Sponsors: Boston Barricade, George E. Warren Corporation, The Jake Owen Foundation, Tom Collins Insurance, Cabana/Box Seat Sponsors: Michael and Kathleen Pierce, Gene Simonsen, John and Charlotte Klein, Peter and Maureen Lee, John’s Island Real Estate, Wilmington Trust, Bob and Lace Milligan, Micky and Rob Stein, Lynn Southerly, John and Sara Marshall, John and Marie McConnell, Shirley Becker, Hadleigh Investments and Supporting Sponsors: Syde Hurdus Foundation, Mike and Meg Hickey/The M&M Group, Nalzarro Music, Coastal Van Lines, Diamond Resorts, Center Court Outfitters, Foglia Contracting, Offfutt, Barton, Schlitt, Inc, Vero Fitness, Treasure Coast Financial, Willem and Marion DeVogel, Ron Chesley, Dr. Collin Kitchell and Minuteman Press.