Inarguably, the two greatest tennis players from tiny Ecuador are Andres Gomez and Pancho Segura.
Gomez won his only Grand Slam at the 1990 French Open beating Andre Agassi in the final, but he also won 21 ATP singles titles and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 1990. The other was Pancho Segura, who was ranked No. 1 from 1950-52, won 66 titles, including the U.S. Pro Championships three times.
Incredibly, on a rainy Sunday at the $10,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, the singles final came down to top-seeded Diego Hidalgo and seventh-seeded Matthew Segura — both with Ecuadorian roots — at The Boulevard in Vero Beach.
Hidalgo, 27, was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador as was Pancho Segura, while Matthew Segura, Pancho’s great nephew, is a native of Los Angeles, living in the Orlando-Apopka area.
In the end the veteran Hidalgo, ranked No. 366 in the ATP World Tour rankings, had too much experience and too much firepower for the unranked 20-year-old Segura as he cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory and the $3,000 payday.
”I’m very happy to have won, to come back because last year was tough losing in the semifinal (when I had a match point),” said Hidalgo, who has won double-figure doubles tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour and ITF circuit. “I want to thank everyone for putting on this tournament with so much happening in the world. I hope to build on this from here and get better.”
Hidalgo, who like Segura features a one-handed, lefty forehand and a two-handed backhand, although Segura, who’s ambidextrous, really has two forehands, similar to his great uncle’s legendary two-hand forehead.
“It was a great week even though it didn’t go my way today,” said Segura, who has won the last three Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation “wild card” events at Sea Oaks tennis club but this is his first trip past the first round of the main event. “I know this won’t be my last [final and $1,500 payday], God willing. I know my great uncle is saying ‘Attaboy,’ and is still proud of me and loves me.”
Hidalgo, a former All-American singles and doubles player at University of Florida, said playing a Segura served as extra motivation.
“Growing up in Ecuador Pancho was the biggest name in tennis,” said Hidalgo, who’s based in Barcelona. “When I found out I was playing a Segura it was a big inspiration and motivation and more because my coach Colon Nunez knew Pancho.”
In the rain-delayed doubles final that preceded the singles final, the veteran top-seeded duo of Colombian Alejandro Gomez and American Junior Ore, dominated the teenage due of Jack Anthrop and Benjamin Kittay 6-1, 6-1.
Kittay, who’s from Potomac, Maryland, won the 2019 USTA National 16s doubles championship in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while Anthrop, 16, also reached the singles semifinals this week only to lose to Segura, despite being up a set and 3-0.
The young American pair had a thrilling semifinal victory over the second-seeded duo of Ricardo Rodriguez – the all-time winningest Davis Cup player from Venezuela – and Ignacio Martinez of Weston, when they pulled out the third-set super tiebreak 12-10 late Saturday. After match point the teenage pals repeatedly gave it the old Bryan Brothers’ chest bump.
Ore also won the Mardy Fish doubles title in 2018, winning with Miles Seeman and is the second player to be a two-time winner, along with David Witt, the long-time coach of tennis great Venus Williams.
“We’ve been practicing for two months so I know where he’s going, where he’s moving so that makes it easier for us,’’ said Ore, 28, who lives in Miami and played for Texas A&M. “We’ve been playing together for almost two years and I don’t know how many titles we’ve won together.’’
In 2019, Gomez, ranked No. 261 in doubles in the world, and Ore, ranked No. 285, won International Tennis Federation doubles titles at Malibu, California, three in Spain, France, Pensacola and Palm Coast. The pair split the $1,500 prize money at this Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) pro event.
“I love playing here, obviously, I have some great memories,’’ said Ore, who played for Texas A&M. “This environment is great, and it’s great to be a part of Mardy Fish tournament history.’’