VERO BEACH, April 28, 2019 (Press Release)
Magnus Johnson of Naples, Fla. withstood a first set blitz and a second set rope-a-dope and hung on to win the final by the narrowest of margins of the pre-qualifying tournament for the $25,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships Friday night at The Boulevard tennis club.
Johnson, 18, won this 32-player wild card feed-in tournament by beating a player more than twice his age and with more than three times the tennis experience, 43-year-old Christian Vinck of Germany by a 4-6, 6-1, 10-8 scoreline, the narrowest margin of victory – two points – in the decisive 10-point match tiebreaker, played in lieu of a third set. The tournament victory qualifies Johnson to play in the 32-player qualifying tournament for this International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour event that is played Monday and Tuesday next week, leading into the main draw of this U.S. Tennis Association Competitive Pathway event.
“It was an awesome experience for me to be a part of the pre-qualifying event for this tournament, knowing it is a prestigious one and I’m happy to receive a wild card and go all the way,” said Johnson. “I was excited for having the opportunity to compete against Christian. He is very experienced and knows what he has to do on the court. I knew it was going to be a difficult task and it is awesome to beat a player who accomplished that much.”
For a player of Vinck’s age and level of professional tennis experience to be playing in this pre-qualifying tournament for what is the tennis equivalent of minor league baseball is an anomaly. One month before Johnson was born in August of 2000, Vinck was narrowly losing a third-round match to world No. 8 Thomas Enqvist on Centre Court at Wimbledon, the grandest stage in tennis. Three years prior to that, Vinck was registering perhaps the signature win of his career over all-time great Andre Agassi in the final of the Challenger-level tournament in Agassi’s hometown of Las Vegas, in front of his family and then wife Brooke Shields. While Johnson is an up-and-coming prospect, verbally committing this week to play college tennis at the University of Central Florida next year, Vinck was in Vero Beach on vacation. While he ended his full-time career as a pro tennis player in 2003, he continued to compete in club and team events in Germany, and an occasional minor league pro event, to continue to quench his competitive fire while he excelled in his career in international management consulting. He has competed and won matches in the qualifying rounds in this Vero Beach event the last three years as it was timed perfectly around his Spring vacation.
Johnson, the No. 1 seed, lost only six games in five matches entered the final against, Vinck, the No. 2 seed, but quickly found himself in unknown territory for the week down 5-2 in the first set, with a crowd of nearly 200 fans eagerly watching. Vinck held on to win the first set 6-4, but the hot and humid conditions, and his 43-year old body, became to take a toll in the second set. After falling down two service breaks, Vinck conserved his energy and played a game of “rope-a-dope,” barely running for balls and going for quick winners to save energy for the decisive 10-point match tiebreaker, played in lieu of a third set in this specially-created prequalifying tournament. After Johnson won the second set 6-1, Vinck, with reserve energy saved up, started full throttle in the tiebreaker. Johnson lead most of the tiebreaker, but Vinck stayed close and worked to tie the score at 7-7. Johnson won the next two points to reach double-match point at 9-7. After Vinck slammed a backhand winner to narrow the gap to 9-8, Johnson calmly stood at the service line and launched a powerful serve down the middle, causing Vinck to miss a backhand return to close out the tournament victory.
“It was a difficult match overall for me,” said Johnson, who was fighting a cold during the week. “I was trying to fight and do the best I could. He wanted to preserve the best he had for the match tie-breaker once I moved in front in the second set. I’m happy for being able to keep my level high, especially after he started to give his best again in the deciding part of the match.”
After two days of rest back home, Johnson will compete in the first round of the qualifying tournament on Monday. Johnson will have to win two matches in the 32-player qualifying tournament to be among eight qualifiers into the main draw of the event that starts on Tuesday.
A main draw doubles “wild card” tournament was also held in conjunction with this pre-qualifying singles event with the winning team earning a main draw doubles invitation into the tournament. This was won by brothers Quinn and Hayden Snyder of Delran, N.J., who defeated Juan Mateus of Edmond, Okla., and Chris Rosensteel of East Windsor, N.J. 4-2, 0-4, 10-5 in the final in the “fast four” scoring format. James and Joseph van Diense of Vero Beach were defeated in the semifinals, losing to the Snyder brothers in three tiebreakers 4-3(3), 3-4(5), 10-8.