Vero Beach is Matthew Segura’s kinda town.
The great nephew of tennis Hall of Famer Pancho Segura advanced into the quarterfinals of the $15,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships Thursday night at The Boulevard, defeating former U.S. Olympian and Davis Cupper Donald Young after leading 6-3, 4-0, with Young abandoning the match with a left hamstring injury.
The win puts Segura into the quarterfinals of an ITF World Tennis Tour event for the first time in his career. His first-round win over 16-year-old Cooper Williams earned Segura his first career ATP ranking point. Segura’s run this week marks another chapter in his run of success through the years in Vero Beach. He is a three-time winner of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation annual “Wild Card” tournament at Sea Oaks, where the tournament awards a main draw wild card into this event. Segura lost in the first round of this event in 2018 and 2019 after winning the “wild card” event but last year when the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships was held as a Universal Tennis event (not awarding ATP ranking points) Segura was the singles runner-up. Since Segura won the 2020 wild card event but was unable to cash in on his “free entry” at the 2020 tournament (since any player can enter at Universal Tennis event and there is not cut-off), Mardy Fish Championships tournament directors Tom Fish and Randy Walker saved the wild card for Segura to be used for the 2021 event, where he would need help to get in the tournament since he had no ATP ranking.
“Each year was a learning experience for me,” said Segura in his post-match interview that you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fK9iGbD4QA&t=22s
His win over the top-seeded Young, the 32-year-old who reached the fourth of the U.S. Open twice, but now ranked No. 425, is his best win in his career to date.
“I just went out there and trusted my ability and my game,” said Segura after the win, that was highlighted by many wicked double-and-single-fisted winners from the baseline that had Young a bit shell-shocked.
Segura will next face former University of Illinois standout Ezekial Clark, the No. 7 seed from Tulsa Oklahoma, who defeated 17-year-old Michael Zheng of Montville, N.J. Thursday.
The match of the day on Thursday came when Ben Shelton, seeded No. 4 in Vero Beach this week, registered a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Blaise Bicknell of Jamaica. There seemed to be no love lost between the former teammates at the University of Florida. Despite winning an NCAA national team championship together under the guidance of Shelton‘s coach/father Bryan Shelton, Bicknell, who went 32-0 in singles last year for Florida, transferred to Tennessee. Both players loudly celebrated winning shots as if it were playing against a hated rival in a heated college tennis match.. The slugfest turned early in the third said when Bicknell called for the trainer to treat a thigh injury with a heavy wrap after losing his serve in the first game of the set. Shelton kept his composure against an injured for and closed out the match.
“It was definitely a good match,” said Shelton in his post-match press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oonrh9t4osQ
“We played on the same court a lot together. It was a tough battle. I knew coming in it was going to be a battle. I’m glad I was able to make it through to the next round.”
Next up for the left-handed Shelton in the quarterfinals at Noon Friday will be fellow 19 year old, the sixth-seeded Liam Drexl of Canada, who eked out a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Loris Pourroy of France and Florida State University. The No. 477th-ranked Drexl attends the University of Kentucky, where he was last year’s top seed in the NCAA singles championship. Draxl and Shelton are also in the semifinals of doubles as a team.
Friday’s feature 6 pm night match will feature a rematch of the 2018 Mardy Fish final where Juan Benitez of Colombia defeated Ricardo Rodriguez of Venezuela. Benitez, who was given a wild card into the qualifying rounds of this tournament by Fish and Walker, defeated No. 5 seed Juan Galarza of Argentina 7-5, 6-4 while Rodriguez defeated Ben Kittay of Potomac, Md., 6-4, 6-4. Benitez and Rodriguez also played in the quarterfinals of last year’s Mardy Fish Universal Tennis event with Benitez registering a stirring comeback over Rodriquez 7-6 (5), 0-6, 7-6 (5) in three hours and 15 minutes that was actually 45 minutes longer than when they played in an epic final of this event in 2018, also won by Benitez 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. In that match Benitez trailed Rodriguez 5-1 in the final set and appeared resigned to defeat after losing 11 of the next 12 games after winning a first-set tiebreaker. Rodriguez, the all-time leading Davis Cup player for Venezuela, however, was not able to close out Benitez, despite serving for the match at 5-2 and 5-4 in the final set and holding a 4-1 lead in the final-set tiebreaker. Benitez also saved a match point at 3-5 in the final set, losing the point before with a whiffed overhead.
Watch Ricardo Rodriguez talk about his affection for Vero Beach here: https://youtu.be/PB7eu9NdNRg
The world’s leading junior player Juncheng Shang of China defeated William Bushamuka 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 39 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals where he will face No. 8 seed Duarte Vale, who beat qualifier Diogo Marques 6-3, 6-3 in an all-Portuguese battle. Watch Walker interview Shang here:https://youtu.be/KYew7eOFtTI
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