James Van Deinse won perhaps the biggest tennis match of his career Sunday afternoon and it just happened to be on the court at the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club where he teaches lessons for hours each day.
Van Deinse’s 7-6 (5), 7-5 win in the final of the special Vero Beach Timber Ridge Tennis Open Universal Tennis prize money tournament came against Michal Schmid, a Czech player who ranked as high as No. 373 in the world and who has beaten current top star Diego Schwartzman of Argentina as well as former Grand Slam tournament semifinalists Jerzy Janowicz of Poland and Joachim Johansson of Sweden in his career.
“It was definitely one of the biggest wins in my career, if not the biggest,” said Van Deinse courtside after his final round win over Schmid that earned him a winner’s paycheck of $325. “I knew he was a great player. I knew he was a former top ranked player… just to see the ball that he hits, it’s a different ball. For me, the strategy was to fight and play my game. Not alter from my game because I knew he was going to hit his big shots and I was able to play almost perfect tennis, my style. It was able to pull me through.”
The tournament was a specially organized event run on the Universal Tennis (UTR) platform by Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships co-tournament director Randy Walker, designed to give local players more competitive opportunities. The Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club will also host for the first time the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in late April of 2023. Van Deinse won four matches over two days to win the title, also including a semifinal win over his older brother and club co-owner Joseph Van Deinse by a 6-0, 7-5 margin earlier on Sunday.
Net money received from entry fees of the tournament were split between the winner and runner-up. Schmid received a runner-up check for $125.
En route to the final, Schmid, who received a first-round bye, registered a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over James Bragg, fresh off reaching the semifinals of the 2022 USTA National Men’s 50 Clay Court Championships, and a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal win over Mason Cisco, the No. 1 player on Vero Beach High School boy’s tennis team.
Van Deinse held two set points with Schmid serving at 5-6, 15-40 in the first set but the Czech ripped four straight winners to hold serve and force the tiebreaker and extended his point win streak to seven taking a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Van Deinse was able to claw back to win three of the next four points, but a double-fault while trailing 3-4 put him down 3-5. Schmid, however, committed errors on the next three points, missing a drop shot, a backhand wide and forehand in the net before Van Deinse sealed the 7-5 tiebreaker win with an ace out wide that cleared the line out wide on the ad side.
In the second set, Van Deinse broke to take a 3-2 lead, but Schmid broke right back for 3-3. Van Deinse then broke Schmid again and was able to consolidate the break by holding serve for a 5-3 lead. Van Deinse held three match points in the following game – losing one on a let cord – but Schmid was able to hold serve to force Van Deinse to serve out the match. Perhaps with the lost match points still in his mind from the previous game, Van Deinse was unable to serve out the match as Schmid tied the second set at 5-5. However, some sloppy play in the next game by the Czech allowed Van Deinse to break again and he was not denied serving for the match for a second time, closing out the 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory.
Van Deinse compared the win to when he beat the former world No. 88 doubles player Brian Battistone in the pre-qualifying tournament for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships in 2019. However, Schmid’s resume and ranking are much better than Battistone with the cadre of players he has beaten in singles and at one time being ranked as high as No. 373 in the ATP Tour rankings, while Battistone’s career-high in singles was only No. 853. Adding to the special nature of the win was the fact that he won it in a final, at the club he owns and operates and was played in front of friends and people who he teaches.
“It was a great crowd,” said Van Deinse. “We had a lot of, some of the students that I teach came out and watched me, so it’s definitely special to play in front of all those people. It was special to host the tournament at our club and to win the tournament that I hosted. It was big and it was a good starter to continue events like this.
“There was nothing playing in front of all of my friends. Everybody that was watching, they really pulled me through. I heard the ‘come ons’ every single point and that really does help when you’re playing matches because you get tired out there in the second set when things are getting weary and you just have to keep fighting and fighting. But definitely cool to play under the lights here. It was starting to get dark, so yeah, it was special.”