Juan Benitez of Colombia and Ricardo Rodriguez of Venezuela will face each other in a blockbuster Friday night 6 pm quarterfinal at the $10,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships in a rematch of their entertaining final at this event in 2018.
Each South American slugger advanced into this confrontation on adjacent courts Thursday at The Boulevard tennis club, Benitez defeating Florida State freshman John Bernard of Bonita Springs, Florida 6-3, 7-5 on the Stadium court while Rodriguez defeated former Mexican Davis Cupper Cesar Ramirez 6-1, 6-2 on the Grandstand court.
In 2018, when this event was held at Grand Harbor and was an official ITF World Tennis Tour event, Benitez won the title by defeating Rodriguez in the final 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in two hours and 28 minutes. That match featured 12 breaks throughout the match as both players struggled to get a foothold early on in the match, with four of the 12 breaks in the match coming in the first five games.
“Amazing. Just every title, every week that you go undefeated is just amazing,” said Benitez at the time after his win two years ago in Vero Beach. “I will always remember this week and this trophy. It’s been an unbelievable week for me here in Vero.” Said Benitez in 2018 of his strategy at the time against Rodriguez, “Just one point at a time. He wasn’t giving many free points. I had to work the point out, move him around, wait for him to miss pretty much.”
While ATP ranking points where on the line during their 2018 final, Friday’s night’s will not have any ranking points on the line as, during this COVID-19 pandemic period, this event is staged as a special $10,000 open prize money tournament on the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) platform. The loser will still earn $500 in prize money while the winner will still have the opportunity to win the $3,000 first prize.
Top-seed Diego Hildago, a member of Ecuador’s Davis Cup team and ranked No. 378 in the ATP World Tour rankings, advanced to the quarterfinals in the first match on Thursday at The Boulevard by defeating Tommi Carnevale-Miino of Italy 6-2, 6-2. He will face Connor Krug of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, the grandson of ESPN College Basketball personality Dick Vitale. Krug, 17, defeated his friend, practice partner and fellow high school senior Benjamin Kittay of Potomac, Maryland 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3. When asked in his post-match on-court interview if his grandfather had a special nick-name for him like his famous basketball terms “Diaper Dandies” or “PTPers” he responded “He just calls me Connor. I will have to earn my own nick-name.”
Jack Anthrop of Orlando, Florida, one of the top American junior players in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings, advanced into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win over San Diego State varsity player Ignacio Martinez of Weston, Florida. In Friday’s quarterfinals, Anthrop will face Alex Bernard, the younger brother of John Bernard, and the reigning USTA National Boys’ 16 singles champion. Bernard, 17, won a three-hour match Thursday night, outlasting Fletcher Scott of the University of Illinois and Lawrence, Kansas 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Matthew Segura, the great nephew of Hall of Fame tennis legend Pancho Segura, advanced in the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 win over University of South Florida tennis player Grey Cacciatore of Gainesville, Florida. Segura is a fan favorite in Vero Beach after winning the special “wild card” tournament for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation at the Sea Oaks Club the last three years.
Segura, 20, will have an unexpected quarterfinal opponent in Charlie Sullivan, who upset No. 2 seed Alejandro Gomez of Colombia 6-4, 6-1. Sullivan, 23, has barely played any professional tennis or high-level competitive tennis, playing just one year at the University of North Florida before stopping his collegiate career, he said, to focus on academics and to rehab from injuries. He was Florida State high school singles and a five-star recruit, but soon found himself running the junior tennis program at Florida State University, where he started to rekindle his love for competitive tennis. He said he has only played the qualifying rounds at five entry-level ITF World Tennis Tour, but failed to advance into any main draw.
After his win, when he was presented with the fact that Gomez had a world ranking of No. 508, Sullivan had a dumb-founded look and said “I didn’t know that” and then screamed “Come on!”
By reaching the quarterfinals this week in Vero Beach, Sullivan earned at least a payday of $500. It will be his second ever professional tennis paycheck.
“I won two racquets, a bag, 600 euros and big trophy at an event near Rouen, France once five years ago,” Sullivan said. “It was a tournament in a small village and I had to stand on a platform when they also gave me this big trophy. I still have it.”
ROUND OF 16 SINGLES
Diego Hildago (Ecuador) def. Tommy Carnevale-Miino (Italy) 6-4, 6-4
Jack Anthrop (Orlando, Florida) def. Ignacio Martinez (Weston, Florida) 6-3, 6-1
Ricardo Rodriguez (Venezuela) def. Cesar Ramirez (Mexico) 6-1, 6-2
Juan Benitez (Colombia) def. John Bernard (Bonita Springs, Florida) 6-3, 7-5
Charlie Sullivan (Boca Raton, Florida) def. Alejandro Gomez (Colombia) 6-4, 6-1
Matthew Segura (Apopka, Florida) def. Grey Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida) 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
Connor Krug (Lakewood Ranch, Florida) def. Benjamin Kittay (Potomac, Md. ) 6-4, 6-3
Alex Bernard (Bonita Springs, Florida) def. Fletcher Scott (Lawrence, Kansas) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Cesar Ramirez (Mexico) and Diego Hidalgo (Ecuador) def. Juan Benitez (Colombia) and A.J. Catanaziriti (Pittsburgh, Pa.) 6-4, 6-3.
Jack Anthrop (Orlando, Florida) and Benjamin Kittay (Potomac, Maryland) def. Grey Cacciatore and Harry Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida) 6-3, 7-6 (3)
NOON – Matthew Segura vs. Charlie Sullivan
NOT BEFORE 1:30 PM – Jack Anthrop vs. Alex Bernard
NOT BEFORE 2:30 PM – Diego Hidalgo vs. Connor Krug
NOT BEFORE 5:30 PM – Cesar Ramirez / Diego Hildago vs. Junior Ore / Alejandro Gomez
NOT BEFORE 6 PM – Juan Benitez vs. Ricardo Rodriguez