By Randy Walker
Do a little digging and you just might find a gem!
That’s what happened when news broke that Andy Roddick was elected for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
As co-tournament director for the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Vero Beach, Florida – the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships – I am always looking for ways to promote our event. Drawing back to an event’s history is a great way to promote and event to remind fans and sponsors how important your event is. This is a practice I employed passionately when I served in roles as the press officers for the U.S. Davis Cup team, U.S. Olympic tennis team and the U.S. Open.
One of the first duties I assigned our fantastic Vero Beach press aide and University of Central Florida student Kevin Craig was for him to create a master list of all the players who had competed in our Vero Beach event since it was first played in 1995. Andy Roddick was one of the most prestigious names who had played the event, along with other players like Tim Henman, Thomas Johansson, Milos Raonic Nicolas Massu among others. Roddick competed in the event in 1999, losing in the first round and when the news came out of his Hall of Fame induction, I thought “I wonder where his appearance in Vero Beach landed in his career arc? Perhaps it was one of the first ten professional events or so.”
While visiting the ATP World Tour website, I was startled to realize that the Vero Beach Futures in 1999 was actually Andy Roddick’s VERY FIRST professional tournament. What a great story and storyline for our event. Roddick actually advanced into the main draw via the qualifying rounds as a 16-year-old hot shot before losing in the first round to Nicolas Todero of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.
So now, our event has a special tagline in tennis history – the first professional tennis tournament that Andy Roddick ever played. Sponsors and fans can identify with this and hold competing players and matches in a higher reverence knowing that “the next Andy Roddick” might be playing in front of their eyes.
The 2017 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships will be held April 21-30 at the Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club in Vero Beach, Florida. Tickets are available for advanced sale at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com with admission for children 18 and under being free. 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. Fans can follow news and developments on the tournament on Facebook and on Twitter at @VeroFutures.
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.
All proceeds for the event benefit the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) the non-profit founded in 2007 benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis star, U.S. Davis Cup hero and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games. The foundation 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.