The finale of the 29th season of “King of the Hill” will be Thursday, February 22 at 6 pm at The Boulevard with the final of the “Open Division” that will decide which two players will earn the coveted main draw doubles wild card into the 2024 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit ITF World Tennis Tour event.
Since 2017, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation has annually awarded the winner and runner-up at the “Open” division of “King of the Hill” a main draw doubles wild card into Vero Beach’s pro men’s tennis tournament where they get to compete for ATP world ranking points and prize money.
Perhaps the favorite to win the Open division is James Van Deinse, the defending champion and the pro and co-owner of the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club, where the 2024 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships will be held April 22-28. Van Deinse, who also won “King of the Hill” in 2017 and played in the Mardy Fish Vero Beach Futures twice when it was an official ITF pro event in 2017 with Michael Alford and in 2023 with KOTH runner-up Tyler Rios. In 2017, he and Alford, then a pro at the Quail Valley Club, lost to Robert Galloway (the 2024 Delray Beach Open doubles champion) and Alex Centenari.
Robert Kowalcyzk, the 43-year-old long-time Vero Beach native who famously won back-to-back USTA National Boys 18s Clay Court Championships in the late 1990s, is looking to return to playing in the Mardy Fish Vero Beach Futures for the first time since 2018 when he played alongside Alford, who was the KOTH winner.
Christian Docter, the teaching pro at the Sea Oaks Beach & Tennis Club, finished one win shy on two occasions from getting a shot to play in the Mardy Fish doubles last year. He finished third in the KOTH final and then in the Mardy Fish “wild card” doubles tournament lost with Joseph van Deinse in the final to James Bragg and Ching Wang.
The fourth KOTH finalist is Mason Cisco, the Vero Beach high school senior who advanced to the final by one point in a tiebreaker with Wang in the KOTH semifinals. Cisco, who earned an ITF world junior ranking this summer while playing events in Europe, will play college tennis at Embry-Riddle University next year.