Play will resume at 10 am Sunday at the $25,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships with the resumption of the second singles semifinal and the start of the second men’s doubles semifinal.
Diego Hidalgo, a member of Ecuador’s Davis Cup team, lead No. 2 seed Sekou Bangoura of Bradenton, Fla., 7-6, 5-3 and was just four points from advancing to the final when lightning and eventually another rain downpour postponed play for the day.
The two former University of Florida standouts will continue their match at 10 am Sunday on the Stadium Court. At 10 am on the Grandstand Court, the second doubles semifinal will begin between Felix Corwin of the USA and Matic Spec of Slovenia, both former University of Minnesota standouts, against Italians Lorenzo Frigerio and Adelchi Virgili. After the conclusion of the singles and doubles semifinals, the respective finals will be scheduled based on rest required and requested following the conclusion of the semifinals.
Waiting in the respective finals will be Bangoura and his Bolivian Davis Cupper partner Boris Arias in the doubles final and Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan in the singles final.
Popko, 22, advanced into his eighth singles final this year on this International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour circuit – or minor league professional tennis tour – with a 6-2, 6-1 victory in just 66 minutes over Paul Oosterbaan of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Kazakh, ranked No. 608 in the ATP Tour singles rankings, broke the hard-serving Oosterbaan four times and forced 10 break points. While standing five inches shorter than Oosterbaan, Popko was the more physically imposing player, furiously slamming his deep and steady groundstrokes from both his forehand and backhand side, forcing errors from his opponent and pushing him away from his comfort zone. Popko also dominated on his serve, losing only 13 points in the entire match when he was serving.
Seeded No. 8 here this week, Popko found his rhythm as soon as the match started, opening a 3-0 lead with a service break in second game of the match and sealed the first set with another break in the eighth game.
“Today I played one of the best matches during this week,” said Popko, who was born in Russia in St. Petersburg. “I started to play better and better after the first round and I’m now in the final.”
Oosterbaan played well to reach the semifinals and was the more well-rested player without having to play a singles quarterfinal by virtue of gaining a walk-over win over Nicolas Alvarez of Peru. By contrast, Popko won a hard-fought slug fest over No. 1 Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil 6-4, 6-3 Friday night in the quarterfinals, played in front of enthusiastic crowd of several hundred fans at The Boulevard.
“Last year I was forced to miss six months and I have managed to find the rhythm at the beginning of 2019,” said Popko. “I’ve been improving my game to reach the best possible shape, I don’t think I had played this well before the injury.”
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships is regarded as one of the best entry-level professional tennis tournaments in the world. Approximately 3,000 fans annually attend the event, which is seen as one of the best-attended entry-level professional events in the world.
Some of the past competitors at this tournament 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 and most recently world No. 50 player and teen sensation Denis Shapovalov, who played in Vero Beach in 2016. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Seven 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 and Frances Tiafoe.
Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,200 children in 15 elementary schools, six middle schools and two after school centers 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.