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Mirjana Lucic-Baroni Reaches Australian Open Semifinals As Dream Run Continues

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

 

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s incredible story continued on Wednesday at the Australian Open as she defeated the 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to reach her second career major semifinal.

“To me this is overwhelming. I will never, ever forget this day or the last couple of weeks,” Lucic-Baroni said.

It’s not just the second career semifinal for Lucic-Baroni, but it’s her first since 1999 when she was just 16 years old. As a teenager, many viewed Lucic-Baroni as the next big thing in women’s tennis, and that showed as she won her first WTA title and won the doubles title at the Australian Open before the age of 16.

Unfortunately, some injuries and issues in her personal life derailed her career for a few years, including a complete hiatus from tennis for a few years that saw her not compete in a single major from 2002 to 2010. Now, she is back on the court and will reach the Top 30 of the WTA rankings for the first time in her career after her run in Melbourne.

“This has truly made my life and everything bad that happened, it has made it OK,” Lucic-Baroni said.

The match started positively for Pliskova, a player who many believed would give Serena Williams issues in a potential semifinal matchup. The Czech saved a break point in her first service game, allowing her to relax and break Lucic-Baroni in the next game. The Croatian didn’t back down, though, as she came back to break twice, including in the final game of the set, to take a one-set lead.

The second set was back and forth as there were six breaks total, including two immediate exchanges of breaks. After the second exchange, Pliskova looked to have finally found her rhythm as she broke Lucic-Baroni two more times to eventually cruise to the second set win, evening up the match.

Another exchange of breaks started off the third set, meaning that Pliskova had now broken Lucic-Baroni five straight times. The 34-year old didn’t let that get her down, though, as she was able to break Pliskova again and took a 3-1 lead. Pliskova would break back a couple games later, but Lucic-Baroni had fate on her side.

With Pliskova serving at 4-4, Lucic-Baroni broke easily at love and followed that up with a comfortable hold to close out the match and earn her spot in the semifinals.

“I can’t believe this, this is crazy,” Lucic-Baroni said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming about. This is what I’ve been training for.”

Lucic-Baroni will take on 22-time major champion Serena Williams in the semifinals on Thursday. Williams will be hoping to set up an all-American final, or even an all-Williams final, as the other semifinal will see CoCo Vandeweghe take on Venus Williams.

Coco Vandeweghe Breaks Out Into First Major Semifinal

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

CoCo Vandeweghe set up an all-American semifinal at the Australian Open on Tuesday as she easily dispatched the 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0.

The other American she will face in the semifinal is seven-time major champion Venus Williams, who also won in straight sets over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4, 7-6(3).

“It’s a dream to play someone you grew up watching. To play an unbelievable player, future hall of famer, to be on the court with her, I’ve only experienced it one time before,” said Vandeweghe, who lost that matchup on clay in Rome. “But to do it at this stage of a Grand Slam is kind of crazy.”

Vandeweghe has been playing the best tennis of her life this fortnight in Melbourne as she knocked out the No. 1 player in the world Angelique Kerber in the fourth round before following that up with a demolishing of the No. 7 seed Muguruza.

In the first set, the American had a look at seven break points before she could finally convert the break on her eighth attempt for a 4-3 lead. In her first four service games of the match, Vandeweghe only lost five points on serve, but when she went to serve out the set a few nerves may have crept into her mind. She fell to 30-40 as Muguruza had a chance to get back on serve, but the big hitting American fought off that break point before winning two more points to take the set.

That was the last change Muguruza would have in the match as Vandeweghe steamrolled through the second set, winning it 6-0. The Spaniard only won four points on serve in her three service games while the American only faced one break point and saved it, earning her a spot in the semifinals.

“It feels really good. It’s amazing to be in a semifinal, but not satisfying. I want to keep going,” Vandeweghe said. “There’s more things to do out on a tennis court that I’m hoping to achieve.”

The 36-year old Williams had a battle on her hands against Pavlyuchenkova, and had to battle back from a break down two separate times in the first set before she broke at love in the final game to steal it from the Russian.

In the second set, Williams once again battle back from a break down twice, but was unable to grab a third break this time, so the set went to a tiebreak. There, Williams fell behind 3-1, but was able to rattle off five points in a row to create three set points. She only needed one as she took the tiebreak 7-3, earning her spot in the semifinals.

“Today was such a hard fought match and she never let up,” Williams said.

“I’m sure she’s going to want to be in her first final,” Williams said about Vandeweghe. “I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”

That semifinal matchup will take place on Thursday in Melbourne, with the winner heading to the Australian Open final.

Serena Williams Moves Into Australian Open Quarterfinals And Closer To Making More History

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Serena Williams didn’t play her best tennis on Monday at the Australian Open, but still managed to defeat Barbora Strycova in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinals.

“It was a really good match for me, and I’m glad I got through it,” Williams said. “It’s good to know I have a Plan B.”

The 22-time major champion continued her pursuit for major title No. 23 in Melbourne as she had to battle through some early struggles. With many of the top seeds already out of the women’s draw, Williams finds herself as the heavy favorite remaining in the draw.

Williams knows this may be one of the best opportunities she gets to claim major title No. 23, and she surely would not let an upset in the fourth round ruin any chances of that.

“I love pressure. I feel like I deal well with pressure,” Williams said of the pressure she feels as being the favorite, something she has experienced many times throughout her career.

Strycova looked like she was up to the task of upsetting arguably the greatest women’s player of all time as she managed to break Williams three separate times in the first set. The only problem here, was that Williams broke four times.

Every time the Czech was able to break, the American would immediately break in the next game to get back on serve. This happened three separate times, the last time making the score 4-4. After that last exchange of breaks, Williams finally appeared to settle in as she held her last two service games, and saw four break points with Strycova serving at 4-5.

Strycova was able to fight off those four set points and even saved three more in the 5-6 game, but Williams wasn’t going to miss out on eight chances to close out the set, finally breaking in the 12th game to take a one-set lead.

In the second set, Williams continued to look like she had found her rhythm, breaking Strycova for an early 4-1 lead. After not facing any break points in her first four service games of the set, Williams faced two when she served for the match at 5-3.

She could only save the first one before Strycova broke to get back on serve at 5-4, however Williams made sure that the comeback was short-lived. In the very next game, Williams broke to close out the match, earning herself the straight sets victory.

“It’s always good to have something to improve on, and I know I can do better on my serve,” Williams said.

Williams will now take on one of the players who has looked the best to start off this year, Johanna Konta. After reaching a final in Shenzhen and winning the title in Sydney to start off the year, Konta has looked very impressive in Melbourne and will provide a very tough task for Williams in the quarterfinals.

Mischa Zverev Breaks Out With Australian Open Upset of Andy Murray

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Mischa Zverev’s incredible professional tennis journey continued on Sunday at the Australian Open as he defeated the No. 1 player in the world, Andy Murray, in four sets to reach the quarterfinals, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Zverev said. “I think you should tell me how I did it because honestly there were a few points where I don’t know how I pulled it off. I don’t know how I won some points but somehow I made it.”

Zverev, the older brother of one of the most promising young stars in tennis, Alex Zverev, was ranked in the Top 50 back in 2009 before he began a bout with various injuries. After falling all the way outside of the Top 1000, forced to play futures and qualifying at challenger level events, he is now on a bigger stage than he ever was before the injuries.

His resurgence has seen him reach the Top 50 again, and his ranking will now jump inside the Top 40 after reaching his first major quarterfinal.

“It means the world to me, and it means the world to me that my whole family is here,” Zverev said. “So many people are here to support me. It’s amazing.”

The entire match was a break-fest, with both players aggressively dominating each other’s service games. In the first set, there were five breaks total and Zverev was the man who grabbed the last two, coming back from a break down two separate times. Murray would constantly get himself ahead in the set, but could never consolidate and ultimately found himself down on the scoreboard.

“He came back from all of the mistakes he made, kept coming up with great shots. Not too much you can do about that,” Murray said of the impressive performance from his opponent.

In the second set, the trend continued. Murray would break, but Zverev would break right back. After the two exchanged breaks early in the set, they found themselves once again at 5-5. In the first, it was Zverev who broke in the 11th game, but this time, it was Murray breaking in the 12th game to win the set and level the match.

Murray finally had his breakthrough. He could finally begin to settle down and cruise on his way to victory. At least that’s how he thought it would play out.

Instead, the German warrior continued his fight, breaking for a 3-2 lead. He would fight off a break point in the very next game, but unlike Murray, Zverev was able to consolidate his break and pull out a 4-2 lead. That wasn’t all for the German, though, as he broke Murray one more time for good measure before serving out the set at 15, shockingly taking the third set 6-2.

“It was kind of easy to stay aggressive but definitely tough to stay calm,” Zverev said.

Despite Murray being down two sets to one, you just couldn’t help but think that he would figure it out eventually. He came close any times in the fourth set, but it just never happened. Zverev continued his incredible play and broke Murray in the first game of the set. From there, he hardly looked back. He didn’t have to face a single break point in the final set, and that early break was good enough to get him the win.

“I don’t know how I feel yet because everything is new to me,” Zverev said. “Maybe playing Roger would be a dream to me because I always admired him growing up.

Zverev, only six years younger than Federer at 29-years old, will get to take on the 17-time major champion in the quarterfinals. Federer dispatched Kei Nishikori in five sets in a late night match on Rod Laver Arena.

Rafael Nadal Fights Off Next Generation In Five-Set Australian Open Win Over Alexander Zverev

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Rafael Nadal withstood the effort from young German star Alex Zverev in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday, winning in five sets by a score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5) 6-3, 6-2.

Nadal, the No. 9 seed in this year’s Australian Open, has been out to prove a message to the ATP World Tour early in the season as he already claimed an exhibition title in Abu Dhabi before reaching the quarterfinals in Brisbane. Now, the 14-time major champion has continued an impressive run to the fourth round in Melbourne after another tough win over Zverev.

“It’s obviously an important result for me. I lost the last couple of ones, matches in the fifth. So it’s important for me to win a match like this,” Nadal said.

The two met last year in Indian Wells, and the German blew an easy volley on match point before eventually squandering the loss to Nadal. That result surely would’ve given Zverev some extra motivation to get revenge on Nadal on Saturday, but in the end, the experienced veteran was just too good, but remained humble as always.

“Everyone knows how good Alexander is. He is the future of our sport, and the present too, now,” Nadal said.

Zverev, who hit 58 winners in the match, got off to a hot start, breaking Nadal in the first game of the match. After saving a break point three games later, Zverev was able to cruise through the rest of the set to jump out to an early lead.

It was Nadal who got off to the hot start in the second set, though, as he held his first two service games at love before breaking the 19-year old easily for a 3-1 lead. Nadal never looked back from that point, as he only dropped three points on serve in the second set to level the match.

Breaks continued to be scarce into the third set as neither man was able to create even a single break point in the set. Zverev was forced to play a 12-point service game early in the set, but other than that, neither player had much trouble on serve. The tiebreak was neck and neck, just like the rest of the set, but it was Zverev who created a set point at 6-5 and didn’t miss out on the opportunity, taking a two sets to one lead.

Being just one set away from the win, Zverev’s mind may have flashed back to Indian Wells last year when he missed out on a great opportunity to upset one of the greatest players of all time. In his first service game of the set, Zverev was broken, allowing Nadal to take an early break lead. Serving at 3-1, Nadal fought off one break point in a 12-point game before settling down in the latter stages of the set, closing it out and forcing a decider.

“Fighting and running a lot,” Nadal said when asked what the key was to his comeback. “I enjoyed a lot this great battle.”

While the fifth set score line will read 6-2 in favor of Nadal, the set was much tighter than you would expect. After Nadal broke in the first game, Zverev was able to break back and get back on serve at 2-2. Nadal did break in the next game, but not before the German fought off two break points in a 16-point game. Zverev’s next service game also resulted in a break, but once again he fought hard, saving two more break points, this time in an 18-point game.

“For the confidence, for lots of things, it’s very important to win these kinds of matches,” Nadal said. “I think I finished the match playing much better than what I started the match.”

Next up for Nadal will be the 6th-seeded Gael Monfils. The eclectic Frenchman has been very impressive in the Australian Open so far, only dropping one set in his first three matches.

Angelique Kerber Rolls Into Australian Open Fourth Round

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Angelique Kerber continued her roll at the Australian Open as she breezed past Kristyna Pliskova in the third round on Friday, 6-0, 6-4.

“It’s great to have another good match under my belt and to be in the fourth round again here,” Kerber said. “I think that I’m finding my rhythm in the tournament now.”

The German made her breakthrough in Melbourne last year winning her first major title inside Rod Laver Arena, and will be looking to grab her third overall this year after she also claimed the US Open in 2016. Kerber is well on her way to the final in the weaker top half of the draw, and she could possibly meet up with Serena Williams for a rematch in the final.

Pliskova is the sister of Karolina Pliskova, who reached the US Open final last year, but is left-handed and has struggled to have the same level of success as her twin. Kristyna has been known more for her doubles results, but had made a good run in Melbourne this year.

Kerber easily dispatched the lower-ranked Pliskova, hitting just 14 unforced errors to her 34. After needed three sets to win both of her first two matches, the No. 1 player in the world gained some much needed confidence as she continues her Australian Open title defence.

In the first set, Kerber raced out to a 5-0 lead after just 17 minutes and finished off the bagel easily thanks to three unforced errors in the final game from Pliskova.

Kerber continued her great form into the second set, going up an early break. Pliskova, though, was able to get back into the set by winning three straight games midway through to take a lead. Kerber didn’t let that mini-slump in the second set stop her, though, as she broke at 4-4 to take a lead before serving out the match with ease.

“It was not so easy today, she is a tough opponent,” said Kerber. “I tried to stay focused until the last point.”

Next up for Kerber is American Coco Vandeweghe, who defeated Genie Bouchard in the third round in three tight sets.

“I think it will be a little bit similar to today. Coco is a tough opponent,” Kerber said. “I know that she’s serving good, as well. I have to move good, be ready, bring a lot of balls back, but also be aggressive.”

If Kerber can get past Vandeweghe, she could most likely take on Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, with Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova potentially awaiting her in the semifinals.

 

Denis Istomin Shocks Australian Open With Novak Djokovic Upset Win

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Denis Istomin pulled off what will most likely be the biggest upset of 2017 as he dispatched the six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.

“It’s unreal. It was impossible to think that I can hold it five sets with Novak, physically and mentally. So I did well today,” Istomin said.

Istomin is currently ranked No. 117 in the world after reaching a career high ranking of No. 33 back in 2012. He only managed to get into the main draw at the Australian Open because he won a wild card playoff for players from Asia in December.

In the semifinal of that wild card playoff, Istomin actually faced multiple set points. But now, here he is in the third round of the Australian Open with an upset of Djokovic in his pocket.

In the first game, Djokovic had to play a 24-point game, fighting off six break points along the way. There was an exchange of breaks midway through the set, but the two eventually settled for a tiebreak. It was Djokovic who raced out to a 4-1 lead, but Istomin proved he was up for the fight, as he battled back to win it 10-8 and take the first set.

In set two, Istomin had to fight off one break point in his 2-2 service game, but nothing too exciting happened until the last three games of the set. With Djokovic serving at 4-5, Istomin got out to a 15-40 lead, meaning he had two set points. The No. 2 player in the world showed why he had 12 major titles under his belt, though, as he rattled off four points in a row to hold before breaking Istomin in the next game, eventually taking the second set 7-5.

The third got off to a hectic start, as there were three consecutive breaks early on, allowing Djokovic to get out to a break lead. In the end, Djokovic would break Istomin in three of his service games in a row, taking the set 6-2 and looking like he had finally killed off the fight from Istomin.

The top-ranked player from Uzbekistan didn’t go away easily, as he came right back in the fourth set and got out to an early break lead. Djokovic didn’t let him hold on to that lead for too long, though, and broke to get back on serve midway through the set. Once again, the two men needed a tiebreak to decide things, and once again it was Istomin coming out on top. This one was a little easier for the wild card as he raced out to a 5-1 lead and claimed the set on his third set point.

In the decider, Istomin had a little trouble in his first two service games while Djokovic was cruising. Seemingly out of nowhere, Istomin broke the Serb for a 3-2 lead with a screaming backhand down the line, and that was all he would need. In his last three service games, the wild card dropped just three points, sending Djokovic out of the tournament, and himself into the third round.

“Whenever he needed to, he came up with a big serve, a big play. All I can say is hats off,” said Djokovic, who actually won seven more points than Istomin did in the match. “He’s a well-deserved winner.”

Istomin is into the Australian Open third round for just the third time in his career, and he will get to take on Pablo Carreno Busta. Istomin will be looking to match his best result at a major against Carreno Busta, as Istomin reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2012 and the US Open in 2013.

Andreas Seppi Comes From Two Sets Down In Marathon Australian Open Upset of Nick Kyrgios

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Andreas Seppi pulled off a massive upset on Wednesday in Melbourne as he battled back from two sets to love down to upset the home favorite Nick Kyrgios, 1-6, 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8.

“It was a very tough match. I didn’t start well but I started to play better and better. Last time (against Kyrgios) I was two sets to love up and lost and I thought I would try to do the same to him,” Seppi said.

This isn’t the first time the Italian has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open, as he took out Roger Federer in the third round of the 2015 event.

Kyrgios, the 21-year old seeded No. 14 in this year’s Australian Open, has been pegged as one of the brightest upcoming stars for Australian tennis for the past couple years now, but has often raised eyebrows due to his temperament and demeanor on court.

He’s been seen noticeably tanking during matches, showing a lack of effort or care for the game, and another early, disappointing loss for Kyrgios will have his fans questioning his dedication to tennis once again.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but it was ultimately a pretty fun match,” said Kyrgios, who heard a few boos while walking off the court after the loss. “Obviously it’s not the greatest thing to hear. I didn’t have the best preparation coming into the Australian Open. But getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling.”

The match between Kyrgios and Seppi started how many would have expected it to, with Kyrgios rolling through the first set, including a break at love in Seppi’s first service game of the match. No breaks, or even any break points, were seen in the second set, but Kyrgios was still able to win it with ease as he opened up a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak and didn’t look back, taking it 7-1.

Seppi was able to make his presence felt in the second set, but you would have expected his fight to die down after missing out on the opportunity to even up the match. That was far from what happened, though, as the Italian veteran, now ranked No. 89 after being as high as No. 18 in 2013, roared back in the next two sets.

The young Australian just had no answer for Seppi, as he was once again unable to get a look at even a single break point in the third set, allowing the Italian to break at 4-4 to go up 5-4, and then comfortably hold to take the set.

“I was more concentrating on my game, not looking too much at what he is doing. I was focusing on my game and it worked out good for me,” Seppi said, as Kyrgios received two code violations and a point penalty in the third set.

In the fourth, Seppi had zero trouble. He broke in Kyrgios’ first service game of the set before breaking four games later for a double break lead. Once again, Seppi faced zero break points.

Seppi continued his roll in the decider, going up a break at 6-5 and serving for the match. Kyrgios finally woke up and saw his first break chances since the first set, as he broke back with ease to prolong the match. Just a couple games later, with Kyrgios up 8-7, he had a look at one more break point, a match point at this time, but Seppi was able to fight it off with a forehand winner.

That would prove to be the climax of the match as Seppi would go on to win 10 of the next 13 points after saving match point, breaking Kyrgios for a 9-8 lead before holding at 15 for the win, 10-8 in the fifth.

Andreas Seppi will take on Steve Darcis for a spot in the fourth round in the Australian Open.

Ivo Karlovic Makes Another Mark In Tennis History With Australian Open Match Victory

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Court 19 at the Australian Open typically wouldn’t be the site of the story of the day, but it was the center of attention on Tuesday as Ivo Karlovic and Horacio Zeballos battled for five sets and five hours. It was Karlovic, who hit an Australian Open record 75 aces in the match, who would come out on top, but not having to battle back from two sets to love down for the 6-7(8), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 win.

“This match is what I will, after my career, remember,” Karlovic, 37 years old, said. “This one definitely I will remember forever.”

Zeballos is known for his clay-court style of play, defending the baseline well and getting a lot of balls back in play, so this was always going to be a difficult matchup for Karlovic. The No. 20 seed in this year’s Australian Open, Karlovic is known for his big serve, big forehand, and great volleys that all come as part of him being 6’11”.

Neither man saw a break point in the first set, and the returner only won more than one point in a game twice out of 12 games. So a tiebreak was needed to separate the two, and it was the Argentinian who struck first, racing out to a 3-0 lead before eventually taking it 8-6.

In the second set, it took seven games for a break point to come for either man, and once again it was Zeballos striking first. Up 4-3, Zeballos broke for a 5-3 lead before easily holding to take the set and give himself a two sets lead, appearing to be just one set away from what would be a routine win.

“It was difficult mentally because I was down 2-0. I had to also fight against him and against my own head. So it was definitely really difficult,” said Karlovic, who hit 141 winners in the match.

Zeballos applied some pressure early on Karlovic, as he won four points in the Croat’s first two service games, but couldn’t get the early break. That allowed some room for Karlovic to settle down and find his rhythm, and he would finally get his first break of the match at 6-5 in the third set to win it and take the match into a fourth set.

After having a look at two break points in the first game of the fourth set, Zeballos crumpled when he was unable to convert. It would be the easiest set of the match from that point as Karlovic would break twice to win the set 6-2, holding three of his four service games at love.

The fifth set was historic. It was the longest fifth set in the history of the Australian Open at two hours and 57 minutes, and the match was the longest when it comes to games since the inception of the tiebreak.

Karlovic had the advantage of serving first and saw break chances at 3-2, while Zeballos had a break point at 11-11. Those were the only two games that saw break points, though, until Karlovic was up 21-20 and opened up a 15-40 lead on the Zeballos serve. The first chance wasn’t converted, but the Croat didn’t miss out on the second one, as he placed a beautiful lob over Zeballos’ head who retreated for hit but shanked the return, giving Karlovic the win.

“Actually I was thinking about that other match, Isner versus Mahut. I was hoping, a little bit, it could go that long so I could also have that record,” said Karlovic, who now holds the record for aces at the Australian Open and the US Open.

Next up for Karlovic will be an Australian home crowd favorite, Andrew Whittington, who defeated Adam Pavlasek in four sets in the first round.

 

Vero Beach “King of the Hill” Event Winner, Runner-Up To Earn Mardy Fish USTA Futures Doubles Wild Card

The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships announced today that the winner and runner-up of the 22nd annual “King of the Hill” tennis tournament that starts Tuesday, January 17 at The Moorings Club in Vero Beach, Fla., will receive a main draw doubles wild card into its annual U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Pro Circuit “Futures” event to be held April 21-30 at Grand Harbor Golf & Beach Club.

“The King of Hill” (KOTH) is the annual doubles competition featuring tennis professionals from the Vero Beach area who compete in round-robin competitions on Tuesday nights to the determine the “king” of the local tennis professional. Proceeds from “King of the Hill” benefit the Youth Guidance Mentoring & Activities Program.

The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships is the USTA’s $15,000 Futures-level tournament played in Vero Beach since 1995 and 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.

“We are happy to award a main draw doubles wild card to the winner and runner-up of the annual ‘King of the Hill’ competition that showcases the top tennis talent in the Vero Beach area,” said Tom Fish, Chairman of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation. “We are happy to work and partner with King of the Hill founder and organizer Gigi Casapu to work together to promote our respective events that are contested and promoted to raise funds to help the youth of our area.”

Many former KOTH champions and competitors have played in the Vero Beach USTA Futures, including four-time champion Robert Kowalczyk, the former USTA National Boy’s 18 Hard Court Champion, four-time champion Aldo Burga, now of The Legacy club, two-time champion Kriegler Brink, a singles semifinalist at the Vero Beach Futures in 2011, and defending KOTH champion Mike Alford, a former standout at the University of Florida, among others.

KOTH matches run every Tuesday starting at 6 pm from January 17 through February 21 at The Moorings club. Admission is $8.

Advance tickets for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships 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. 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.