Marcus Willis, the inspiring Cinderella story from Wimbledon last summer, leads the list of entries into the 2017 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event to be played April 21-30 at Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club.
Last summer, Willis, inspired by meeting a new romantic partner Jennifer Bate at a concert, won six matches in pre-qualifying and qualifying rounds to advance into the main draw of Wimbledon, where he reached the second round before losing to Roger Federer on Centre Court. The story of Willis was one of the best stories in tennis in 2016 – receiving global media coverage, a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd and high praise from Federer.
“This story is gold‚“ Federer said last summer of the Willis Cinderella story. “I think it’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport. This is the kind of stories we need in our sport.”
Other leading entries into the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships include Peter Nagy, a member of Hungary’s Davis Cup team, Naoki Nakagawa, the 2014 U.S. Open junior doubles champion from Japan, Connor Smith, a former Ohio State All-American and the 2014 singles champion in Vero Beach, and Facundo Mena, the 2014 and 2015 singles runner-up in Vero Beach from Argentina.
Willis is currently ranked No. 409 in the ATP World Tour rankings and will be competing in his first tournament since he became a father to a baby girl last month with Bate, now his wife.
“We are excited to welcome these amazingly talented players from all around the world to Vero Beach where they continue their pursuit of ATP ranking points, prize money and tennis glory in their professional tennis careers,” said Tom Fish, co-tournament director of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation. “It’s exciting to have in our field someone as inspiring as Marcus Willis, whose run last year at Wimbledon was something right out of a Hollywood screenplay. It proves that there is very little that separates players competing in events like our Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships and having the opportunity to play at Wimbledon on Centre Court against Roger Federer.”
Play will begin at Grand Harbor on Friday, April 21 at 8 am for the opening round of the 128-player qualifying tournament, which in 1998 featured future U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick playing his first ever professional matches. The qualifying rounds will continue Saturday, April 22, Sunday, April 23 and Monday, April 24 with play starting at 10 am. The 32-player singles and 16-team doubles main draw tournament will start on Tuesday, April 25 with matches starting at Noon each day through the finals on Sunday, April 30. Special 7 pm night matches will be played Tuesday, April 25 through Friday, April 28, with special “Happy Hour” night tickets being sold starting at 5 pm.
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships has been played in Vero Beach since 1995 and is regarded as one of the best entry-level professional tennis tournaments in the world. Proceeds from the event benefit the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com), the non-profit tennis foundation benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, the former top 10 tennis star and a U.S. Davis Cup standout.
Advance tickets – and sponsorships – for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships are available at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com. Season tickets for all 10 days of the competition are available for $100. Daily buy-one-get-one free tickets for the qualifying rounds April 21-24 are for sale for $10, with daily tickets for the main draw sessions April 25-30 for sale for $20. A special “Happy Hour” ticket is available for $10 after 5 pm for night sessions on Tuesday, April 25 – Friday, April 28 that includes a featured 7 pm night match. Admission for children 18 and under is free. Tickets are also sold at the front gate. 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.
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.
Corporate sponsors and donors for the 2017 tournament include PNC Bank, Boston Barricade, George E. Warren Corporation, Indian River Medical Center, Jake Owen Foundation, Syde Hurdus Foundation, Indian River Oxygen, Citrus Grillhouse, Coastal Van Lines, Rossway Swan, Publix, Ryan A. Jones and Associates, Tom Collins Insurance Agency, Vocap Partners, Riverside Café, Center Court Outfitters, David Walsh and Associates Real Estate, Peter Bernholz Family, John’s Island, Gene Simonsen, Michael & Kathleen Pierce, Steve Rubin, Rob Stein, William Barhorst, Dan Holman, John Klein, Mello Financial Services, Ocean Drive Elite Physiques, Rosato Plastic Surgery, Captain Hiram’s Resort, Absolute Protection Team, Minuteman Press, Technifibre, TeamChristopher.com, Fit for Life Strength, Diamond Resorts International, Wilson, Don Herrema and Lori Ford.
Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) 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.