The Marcus Willis run in Vero Beach has come to an end.
The No. 2-seeded 26-year-old sensation from Wimbledon last summer was defeated Friday in the quarterfinals of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships at Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club, falling to No. 6 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 6-1, 6-3.
Willis is known for his grass-court style of play, and was simply outmatched by Cagnina, who has much more experience on the clay courts. Cagnina has been ranked as high as No. 255 in the world and has won nine professional singles titles on the ITF Pro Circuit.
“He came out of the blocks very quickly,” Willis said of Cagnina, who won seven of the first eight games of the match. “In these conditions I find it tough to play well, but he did.”
Willis, ranked No. 401 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings, worked his way back into the match early in the second set, but Cagnina wouldn’t let him get a foothold. The Belgian, ranked No. 547 in the world, lost just two of his last 14 service points of the match, and continuously applied pressure on the Willis serve. In the end, Cagnina’s advantage on the clay courts was too much and he knocked Willis out of the event.
“In the second set I got back into it and started playing a bit better, but sometimes you need some luck,” Willis said. “But that’s tennis, it’s fine. You learn and get back on the practice court and go again.”
Willis was defeated in doubles late Thursday night when he and the best man at his recent wedding, Josh Milton, were defeated by Vero Beach resident Daniel Garza of Mexico and Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-4, 6-3.
Cagnina will face 18-year-old Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif., in Saturday first semifinal. Riffice easily advanced into a semifinal for the first time in a professional event with an easy 6-1, 6-1 win over two-time Vero Beach finalist Facunda Mena of Argentina. It marked the seventh straight win for Riffice this week at Grand Harbor after winning four matches in the qualifying rounds and three matches in the main draw.
In each of his first two matches, Riffice dropped the first set before rolling comfortably in sets two and three. On Friday, Riffice rolled straight from the beginning, getting a break in the third game of the match and, at one point, winning seven games in a row.
“I don’t think I could’ve played a much better first set. I definitely executed my game-plan perfectly,” Riffice said.
Riffice is one of the protégés of Vero Beach resident Ivan Lendl as part of Lendl’s role in the USTA Player Development program. As Riffice was blasting groundstrokes from all corners of the court, Lendl watched quietly and expressionless courtside, just like he is seen on television at all the major tournaments with his other coaching client, world No. 1 Andy Murray.
Vero Beach has been a hot spot for young American players, who train with Lendl at the Windsor Club, where he lives. Last year, another teenager tutored by Lendl, Vasil Kirkov, reached the semifinals at this event. Now, it is Riffice’s turn to succeed here.
“I’ve been lucky to be able to train with the USTA and this group of four of five kids my age, and we all want the same thing,” said Riffice, who is on the verge of cracking the top 1,000 in the ATP World Tour rankings with his results this week.
The most exciting match of the day came when top-seed Calvin Hemery of France escaped a scare in his quarterfinal against Venezuelan Davis Cupper Ricardo Rodriguez, eventually winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 40 minutes.
Rodriguez had been on a roll, losing only two games in the qualifying rounds, saving two match points in his opening round upset of No. 5 seed Uchida of Japan coming back from a set down in a three-set win over Lukas Ollert of Germany. Rodriguez, playing on his 24th birthday, appeared poised to post another comeback win when he fought off three match points at 40-0, with Hemery serving for the match at 5-4 in the final set and broke serve to even the match. However, he let his next service game slip and Hemery successfully served out the match on his second opportunity.
“Ricardo Rodriguez is a very great player,” Hemery said after the match. “He saved three match points. I think ‘I’m gonna die,’ but I continue to fight and finally I have the win. I am so happy.”
Hemery is now into his second consecutive semifinal and has won nine of his last 11 matches. The 22-year old Frenchman will be looking to go one step further this week than he did last week in Orange Park, Fla., where he lost in the final to Felipe Mantilla of Colombia.
“I want to take my revenge here and win the tournament,” Hemery said, “but first I’m going to think about my semifinal and concentrate. Then we will see.”
Hemery’s semifinal match will take place against Gavin van Peperzeel of Australia. Van Peperzeel beat Hungarian Davis Cupper Peter Nagy 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final quarterfinal that finished at 9:30 pm Friday night. Play will start at 1 pm on Saturday – and hour later than originally advertised – due to singles and doubles play on Friday going later in the night.
The full Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships tournament schedule is as follows. Tournament information can also be found at www.TennisVeroBeach.com
To see Friday’s full schedule, click here: https://www.usta.com/content/dam/usta/pdfs/20170424_VeroBeach_M_OP.pdf
To see all updated draws, click here: https://www.usta.com/en/home/pro/pro-tennis-events/men-s-tournament-information.html
Saturday, April 29 – 1 pm, Main draw singles semifinals
Sunday, April 30 – Noon, Singles and Doubles Finals
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships has been played in Vero Beach since 1995 and 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 (www.MardyFishFoundation.com), the non-profit tennis foundation benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, the former top 10 tennis star and a U.S. Davis Cup standout.
Advance tickets for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships are available at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com. Season tickets for all 10 days of the competition are available for $100. Daily buy-one-get-one free tickets for the qualifying rounds April 21-24 are for sale for $10, with daily tickets for the main draw sessions April 25-30 for sale for $20. A special “Happy Hour” ticket is available for $10 after 5 pm for night sessions on Tuesday, April 25 – Friday, April 28 that includes a featured 7 pm night match. Admission for children 18 and under is free. Tickets are also sold at the front gate. Approximately 3,000 fans annually attend the event, which is seen as one of the best-attended events in the world on the “Futures” level of professional tennis tournaments. The 2016 event featured 13 players who played Davis Cup for their country and was won by Jonas Luetjen of Germany, who defeated Latvian Davis Cupper Martins Podzus in the final.
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 among others. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Six former Vero Beach players have gone on to play Davis Cup for the United States – Roddick, Fish, Taylor Dent, Jared Palmer, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.
Corporate sponsors and donors for the 2017 tournament include PNC Bank, Boston Barricade, George E. Warren Corporation, Indian River Medical Center, Jake Owen Foundation, Syde Hurdus Foundation, Indian River Oxygen, Citrus Grillhouse, Coastal Van Lines, Rossway Swan, Publix, Ryan A. Jones and Associates, Tom Collins Insurance Agency, Vocap Partners, Riverside Café, Center Court Outfitters, David Walsh and Associates Real Estate, Peter Bernholz Family, John’s Island Real Estate, Gene Simonsen, Michael & Kathleen Pierce, Steve and Karen Rubin, Rob and Mickey Stein, William Barhorst, Dan Holman, John Klein, Mello Financial Services, Ocean Drive Elite Physiques, Rosato Plastic Surgery, Captain Hiram’s Resort, Absolute Protection Team, Minuteman Press, Technifibre, TeamChristopher.com, Fit for Life Strength, Diamond Resorts International, Wilson, Don Herrema and Lori Ford.
Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,100 children in 15 elementary schools and six middle schools in Indian River County, Florida by providing 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
The Marcus Willis run in Vero Beach has come to an end.