James Bragg of Vero Beach earned the opportunity to be a part of pro tennis history on the ITF World Tennis Tour and U.S. Tennis Association Pro Circuit.
The 53-year-old paired with Sea Oaks teaching pro Ching Wang to win the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships “Wild Card” doubles tournament on Monday and earn an invitation to compete in the $15,000 entry-level professional tournament April 24-30 at the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club at Timber Ridge.
Bragg and Wang defeated fellow Vero Beach residents Christian Docter and Joseph Van Deinse 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the “Wild Card” doubles tournament at Timber Ridge that awards a main draw doubles invitation to the winning team. At age 53, Bragg will be one of the oldest men to ever compete at an official pro tennis tournament.
“Playing at any level of pro tennis over the age of 50 is extremely rare,” said Greg Sharko of the ATP Tour’s communications department. “Certainly, James would be among the oldest players to ever play an official pro tennis match.”
Bragg, who plays out of The Boulevard Club in Vero Beach, will be scheduled to play his opening round doubles match on Tuesday afternoon, April 25. A former varsity player for Dartmouth, Bragg last year reached the semifinals in singles of the USTA National Men’s 50 Clay Court Championships.
Wang, a first-year teaching professional at the Sea Oaks Beach & Tennis Club in Vero Beach, is a former NCAA Division II player at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. He competed in a limited number of ITF World Tennis Tour events in 2018 in the United States, Spain and Hong Kong.
Bragg and Ching spoke of their Wild Card tournament victory and their goals at the Mardy Fish tournament playing against ATP-ranked players from around the world here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQUEEt5XoZc
In the singles final of the Mardy Fish “pre-qualifying” tournament that determined a wild card entry into the qualifying event, Jose Galvez of Atlanta, defeated Aldiyar Azbahn of Plantation, Fla., 7-5, 6-3 in the final to earn only his second career entry into an ITF World Tennis Tour qualifying draw. The persistent baseline game of Galvez enabled him to win the title without losing a set and defeated Vero Beach locals Sebastian Mendoza 7-6(5), 7-5 in the quarterfinals and James Van Deinse 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Galvez, a former standout at Kennesaw State University, was playing in his first competitive tournament since 2020 at Timber Ridge and was inspired to give competitive tennis another try after being inspired by his girlfriend, as he discusses here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQNqThUaj4o
Earlier this year, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation awarded other performance-based main draw tournament wild cards to the doubles team of James Van Deinse and Tyler Rios of Port St. Lucie by virtue of their finishes as the winner and runner-up, respectively, at Vero Beach’s annual “King of the Hill” competition and to Matthew Segura of Apopka, Fla., by virtue of his victory at the wild card singles tournament at Sea Oaks in February. By reaching the final of the Sea Oaks wild card event, Ryan Haviland of Greenville, S.C., earned a qualifying round wild card.
Daily, weekly and reserved seating tickets for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships can be purchased at MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org or at the front gate at the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club during the event.
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships has been held in Vero Beach since 1995 and, since 2016, has benefitted the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the non-profit foundation benefiting children named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis star, U.S. Davis Cup hero and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games.
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, 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist Denis Shapovalov, 2022 U.S. Open semifinalist France Tiafoe, 2023 Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul and new rising star and 2022 NCAA singles champion Ben Shelton. 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.
Affectionately known as “Timber Ridge” to locals, the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club has been a staple in the community for over 30 years and has been owned and run since 2016 by James and Joseph van Deinse. The club boasts 14 Har-Tru tennis courts, a pickleball court, pool and clubhouse with fitness center and bar. The facility previously hosted a $25,000 women’s USTA Pro circuit event in 2014 that featured future major tournament champions Naomi Osaka and Sofia Kenin, future top 10 star Jennifer Brady and future major doubles champions Nicole Melichar, Laura Siegemund and Gaby Dabrowski. The club is also the original home of the “King of the Hill” tennis competition, hosting the first seven editions of Vero Beach’s popular doubles competition from 1996 to 2002. The Vero Beach Fitness & Tennis Club will be the third different venue to host the tournament after being held at Grand Harbor Club for 17 years from 1995 to 2009 and in 2017 and 2018 and at The Boulevard where it was held for 11 years from 2010 to 2016 and from 2019 to 2022.
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 2023 include Presenting Sponsor PNC Bank, Grand Slam Sponsor: John’s Island Real Estate, Scoreboard Sponsor Tara Layne Alex MacWilliam Real Estate, Hat Sponsor: The Roberts Family Foundation and additional event sponsors Cliff Norris Real Estate, Tom Collins Insurance Agency, Hazel House, Antle Foundation, Gene Simonsen, Kathie and Michael Pierce, Maureen and Peter Lee, Bob and Emilie Burr, Daniel Holman, Lynn Southerly, John and Sara Marshall, John and Marie McConnell, Peter and Ellen Kendall, Shirley Becker, Jaime Yordan, Steve and Karen Rubin, Katherine Cerullo, Pene Chambers, Willem and Marion de Vogel, M&M Realty, Foglia Contracting Corp, Hazelton Marketing Group, Block and Scarpa, Attorneys at Law, Center Court Tennis Outfitters, Publix, Kitchens By Design, Orchid Island Realty, Joe and Barbara Price, Charlie and Este Brashears, Rob and Mickey Stein, Evelyn’s Plant Care, Vero Marine Center, Boston Retail Solutions and Minuteman Press.