Karl Poling of West Point, N.Y., the 18-year-old son of U.S. Military Academy men’s tennis coach Jim Poling, earned a main draw wild card entry into the 2018 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships by winning an unusual final of the wild card tournament held at the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona, Florida.
His final-round match against fellow 18-year-old Trent Bryde of Atlanta, Ga., was, however, not played at Lake Nona, but in Orange Park, Florida, just outside of Jacksonville.
Due to rain that washed out an entire day of play in the 40-player wild card event, Poling and Bryde had to play their semifinal and final-round matches on Thursday, April 12, jeopardizing their opportunity to play in the qualifying tournament at the USTA Pro Circuit event in Orange Park – 150 miles away – for which they had to personally register for on-site at the tournament desk by 6 pm that day. Tournament officials decided, in the best interest of the players and their competitive playing opportunities, to have them play the final later that night in Orange Park after signing in to play in the Orange Park qualifying event. Poling and Bryde then battled for nearly three hours before Poling emerged victorious 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Poling joins 17-year-old Matthew Segura of Apopka, Fla., the great nephew of International Tennis Hall of Famer Pancho Segura, as the winners of the two wild card tournaments for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships. Segura won an 18-player wild card tournament at the Sea Oaks Tennis & Beach Club in Vero Beach last month, highlighted by appreciative daily crowds of approximately 500 fans. Both teenagers will be competing in the main draw of this $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event at Grand Harbor that starts Tuesday, April 24. The 128-player qualifying event in Vero Beach start Friday, April 20 at 8 am..
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, 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 April 20-29 event are available at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com. Admission for children 18 and under is 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.
Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera, a member of the Davis Cup team from Chile, is the top entry into this year’s event A 20-year-old from Santiago, Chile, Barrios Vera has been a member of the Chile’s Davis Cup team since 2017 and is currently ranked No. 414 in the ATP World Tour rankings. Other leading entries include Samuel Bensoussan of France, ranked No. 417 in the ATP World Tour rankings, Ricardo Rodriguez, the all-time leading Davis Cup singles player from Venezuela, former Northwestern University standout Strong Kirchheimer, Colombia’s Juan Benitez, who reached the quarterfinals in Vero Beach in 2016, losing an thrilling three-set match to Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov, and Collins Johns of Maryland, whose ambidextrous groundstrokes fascinated fans in Vero Beach last year during his run to the round of 16 as a lucky-loser entrant.
Play at the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships begins at Grand Harbor on Friday, April 20 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 21, Sunday, April 22 and Monday, April 23. Eight players will advance from the qualifying rounds into the main draw. The 32-player singles and 16-team doubles main draw tournament will start on Tuesday, April 24. Special 7 pm night matches will be played Tuesday, April 24 through Friday, April 27, with special $10 night tickets being sold starting at 5 pm.
The featured night match on Tuesday, April 24 while feature Vero Beach native Robert Kowalczyk and “King of the Hill” tournament champion Michael Alford, a teaching pro at the Quail Valley Club, playing their first round doubles match at 7 pm as wild card entrants into the field.
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.
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 20-23 are for sale for $10, with daily tickets for the main draw sessions April 24-29 for sale for $20. A special night ticket is available for $10 after 5 pm for night sessions on Tuesday, April 24 – Friday, April 27 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.
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.
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