Calvin Hemery, the energetic, outgoing shotmaker from France, reigned supreme at the 2017 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships ending the 10-day run of qualifier Sam Riffice in Sunday’s singles final by a 6-3, 6-1 scoreline in front of over 400 fans at Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club.
Hemery came into the singles tournament as the No. 1 seed and accomplished the only goal he had in mind; winning the title. The Frenchman had lost in the final of the previous week’s tournament on the USTA Pro Circuit in Orange Park, just outside of Jacksonville, last week, and had no intentions of doing that two weeks in a row.
“It was a perfect week for me,” said Hemery, ranked No. 298 in the ATP World Tour rankings.
Riffice, an 18-year-old from Roseville, Calif., entered the match having won nine straight matches over the last 10 days – four in the qualifying tournament and five in the main draw. Sunday marked his first appearance in professional singles final and he appeared poised early on to notch his first title when he took an early 3-1 lead in the first set, breaking Hemery’s serve in the first game of the match.
“He got off to a very hot start. I didn’t play well and he pushed me,” the 22-year-old Hemery said.
The wear and tear of the previous 10 days finally began to show as Hemery then proceeded to win 11 of the next 12 games to claim the title and the 18 ATP World Tour ranking points that will push up to be in reach of potentially being included in the French Open qualifying tournament in late May.
Hemery, a resident of the east Paris suburb of Les Lilas, France, said he believed fitness was a factor in the match.
“I was a little bit more fresh, so I moved a little better,” he said.
Riffice had an opening to potentially get back into the match when Hemery served for the first set at 5-3 holding double-break point at 15-40. However, Hemery stepped up his game and won the next four points to close out the set, hammering an ace down the T as an exclamination point.
“I knew I had to come out big and I executed well,” Riffice said of his fast start. “I just couldn’t keep it up. I felt like I played my game the whole time, but I was a little tired and he definitely picked up his game. I was happy with the way I played. He just outplayed me today.”
Despite the loss, the week marked a break-through for Riffice, who earned 10 ATP World Tour ranking points to move into the top 1,000 in the professional rankings. As the No. 30-ranked junior player in the world, he will compete in junior Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He will also continue to work with Vero Beach resident Ivan Lendl, the tennis legend who works with Riffice as part of the USTA’s Player Development program. In the grand picture of his career, the loss was only a minor roadblock in what is looking to be a promising career for the American.
“I know that when I play my game, I have a chance against the top players,” Riffice said. “I take a lot of positives from this.”
For Hemery, it was his second professional singles title, also winning at this “Futures” level of professional events at an event in Italy in 2015. Immediately after the singles final, Hemery and Julien Cagnina of Belgium played in the doubles final, but were defeated by the Brazilian tandem of Alex Blumenberg and Thales Turini 6-4, 2-6, (10-7).
Blumenberg and Turini raced out to a fast start in the first set, gaining a 5-0 lead. Cagnina and Hemery fought back winning the next four games before the Brazilians finally closed out the first set, despite saving break points in the set’s final game.
The second set was won with relative ease by Cagnina and Hemery, before the Brazilians were able to regroup in the third-set match-tiebreak and close out the victory.
For Blumenberg, it was his first professional title of any kind, coming in a tournament in which he didn’t even intend to play doubles.
“He surprised me during the week and convinced me to play,” Blumenberg said about Turini. “Now, I am a champion for the first time after a lot of injuries and tough moments. So I am very happy.”
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 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 Real Estate, Gene Simonsen, Michael & Kathleen Pierce, Steve and Karen Rubin, Rob and Mickey 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