The 2020 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Champions kicks off Monday, October 19 at noon at The Boulevard after a six-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vero Beach’s most prestigious international sporting event, held here on the Treasure Coast since 1995, will this year be an open prize money tournament featuring an international field of ATP pros, college players, internationally and locally-ranked junior players as well as aspiring amateurs of various ages. The 48-player singles draw and 14-doubles draw will run Monday through Sunday at The Boulevard tennis club, with strict protocols in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Instead of playing for ATP or ITF ranking points in a USTA Futures or an ITF tournament, the event will be staged on the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) platform with $10,000 in total prize money, the singles winner receiving $3,000 and the doubles champions splitting $1,500.
The field is headed by No. 1 seed Diego Hidalgo, ranked No. 378 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings and a member of Ecuador’s Davis Cup team, followed by Alejandro Gomez of Colombia, the No. 2 seed ranked No. 508. Venezuelan Davis Cupper Ricardo Rodriguez, the 2018 singles runner-up in Vero Beach ranked No. 526 in the world, is the No. 3 seed. Juan Benitez of Colombia, the 2018 singles champion at the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, is also in the field and is seeded No. 8.
Two rising American teens, Jack Anthrop, 16, of Orlando and friendly rival Alex Bernard of Bonita Springs, are seeded No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Bernard’s brother John Bernard, a Florida State player, is seeded No. 10.
“I’m happy we get to play players that good in this tournament … right now guys like me need to be playing right now and get in as many tournaments that are available to the juniors,’’ said Anthrop, who in 2019 won the prestigious Eddie Herr boys 16s title among many other international junior titles. “We don’t have many ITF Grade 4s (level events), and it’s very hard to play in other countries because we’d have to quarantine for two weeks. We’ve been sitting around since March waiting and it wasn’t good for us.’’
Anthrop, who has been coached by UCF coach John Roddick, a former pro and older brother of American Hall of Famer Andy Roddick, as well as UCF women’s coach Brian Koniecko, participated in a series of six UTR events held in Orlando held over the summer. He reached the semis and finals in the first two and won the third for a $500 payday.
“This is my dream since I’m 7,’’ Anthrop said. “John tells me to ‘give the ball a ride. You got to hit it or someone else is going to hit it.’ … I sent a video of me imitating Andy’s serve. Andy said that it was accurate, but, ‘just add a 100 more miles-per-hour.’ ‘’
There’s plenty of local flavor to savor this week, including Vero Beach High School tennis coach James Van Deinse and his brother Joseph, the coach of St. Edward’s School. The siblings, who own and operate the Vero Beach Tennis & Fitness Club in Timber Ridge, are playing doubles Monday night, and James and Joseph are also playing singles earlier Monday.
If James Van Deinse, 30, gets past his first round, he will encounter Gomez, the No. 2 seed, who owns an ATP 2015 hard-court victory over Marcos Baghdatis, once ranked No. 8 in the world and a finalist at the 2006 Australian Open.
If brother Joseph, 32, wins his first-round match he will have to face top-seeded Hidalgo, a semifinalist here in Vero Beach last year and a former University of Florida standout.
It would be wild if former Vero Beach High No. 1 singles Emilio Van Cotthem would play any of his old teammates and current Fighting Indians such as Trey Olmstead or Sebastian Mendoza in a professional match, or even come across their coach James Van Deinse. Van Cotthem opens play on Monday at noon against Adam Bain of Newport Beach, California. Olmstead plays former Texas A&M standout A.J. Catanzariti at 3:30 while Mendoza plays Seth Highnote of Douglasville, Georgia at 6 pm.
Another player of note is 30-year-old Cesar Ramirez, once ranked No. 105 in the world in doubles with match wins over teams including Vasek Pospisil and Victor Troicki, who were once ranked 25th and 12th in singles, respectively.
Also in the draw is Matthew Segura, whose great-uncle Hall of Famer Pancho Segura was unofficially No. 1 in the world with 66 titles on his resume in the 1950s. Known for his two-fisted strokes from both sides — just like Matthew — Segura was Jimmy Connors’ first coach and coached his grand-nephew for 10 years before passing away at 96 in 2017.
Segura, 20, who is also an ambidextrous server, has won the last three Mardy Fish wild-card events at the Sea Oaks Club, so he has become a hometown favorite.
In addition to the players getting daily temperature checks, hand sanitizers will be accessible and the club will only allow 35 percent capacity with social distancing seating. There are no daily ticket sales but for those interested in acquiring reserved seats for the entire tournament, e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds from the event go to the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, a non-profit charity geared toward helping at-risk children in Indian River County. Fish, a Vero Beach native and former Top 10 pro, is the U.S. Davis Cup captain.
Fish’s foundation promotes hygiene and fitness for children and includes his six ingredients for a healthy life, which is more important than ever during these difficult times: eat healthy, get exercise, drink water, brush and floss every day, get a good sleep and make friends. For more information, go to www.MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org
The full schedule for Monday is as follows:
$10,0000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships
STADIUM – Emilio van Cotthem (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Adam Bain (Newport Beach, Calif.)
GRANDSTAND – Joseph van Deinse (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Klaus Fink (Germany)
COURT 2 – Sibi Soumahoro (Washington, D.C.) vs. Charlie Gundeck (Winter Park, Florida)
COURT 3 – Kurt Pessa (West Palm Beach, Florida) vs. Rodrigo Reyna (Mexico)
COURT 4 – Nicolas Streibick (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Chukwudumebi Smarty (Broadview Heights, Ohio)
COURT 5 – Alexandre Moutran (Monteverde, Florida) vs. Harry Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida)
COURT 6 – John Mullane (White Lake Charter Township, Michigan) vs. Alexander Butler (Indialantic, Florida)
Grey Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida) vs. Filippo Marangoni (Brazil)
Ricardo Reyna (Mexico) vs. Kai Freeman (Chevy Chase, Md.)
STADIUM – James van Deinse (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Mark Clark (Winter Park, Florida)
Luis Diego Leon (Peru) vs. Amadeus Charlez-Alcock (Melbourne Beach, Florida)
Nathan Dickens (Melbourne, Florida) vs. David Pfister (Bradenton, Florida)
Lazar Markovic (Locust Valley, New York) vs. Austin Causey (Melbourne, Florida)
STADIUM – Trey Olmstead (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. A.J. Catanzariti (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
GRANDSTAND – James van Deinse (Vero Beach, Florida) / Joseph van Deinse (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Filippo Marangoni (Brazil) / Alexandre Moutane (Monteverde, Florida)
COURT 4 – Rodrigo Reyna (Mexico) / Ricardo Reyna (Mexico) vs. Harry Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida) / Grey Cacciatore (Gainesville, Florida)
COURT 5 – Stefan Hartman (Melbourne, Florida) vs. Michael Bird (Cocoa Beach, Florida)
STADIUM – Sebastian Mendoza (Vero Beach, Florida) vs. Seth Highnote (Douglasville, Georgia)