Santiago "Smooth" was all smiles after a long, hard fought day of tennis where he earned the win, the money, the trophy, and the ranking points
Kissimmee, Florida- 18 year old Cocoa Beach senior Santiago "Smooth" Garcia came back from behind against two pro players to earn his very first FTT Florida Tennis Tour win in Miami. It was a beautiful day in Hialeah at the Goodlet Tennis Center on their pristine hardcourts. Facility manager Ricardo Martinez graciously hosted players that came from Orlando, Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach, and all over Miami representing Spain, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Cuba and the USA.
Peru's Ricardo Martinez and his team at the Goodlet Tennis Center were excellent hosts. Numerous players from outside of Miami came down to enjoy tennis in the day and the magic of Miami at night, as well as the famous South Beach
14 year old Emilio Tenacio (ESP) of Miami won the Top Teen Titan Award after his comeback from behind win over Jacksonville's Jason Sykes, currently ranked #7 FTT. Down 4-6, Tenacio actually thought he lost the match already and walked off the court, not realizing it was an 8-game pro set in the early rounds. They resumed the match and Tenacio came back to win an exciting tie-break 9-8 (8-6). He then went onto defeat FTT #5 Cesar Andini of Orlando 8-2. He eventually lost to Santiago Garcia in the semi-finals but had already cashed in the tournament with his 3rd place finish and has leaped into the #11 ranking in the FTT. His parents and coach Gerardo Villaescusa of Spain came to support him and were incredibly excited with his results. Young teenager Matias Molina of Miami also was playing in his first ever tennis tournament and played a great match against FTT Doubles #2 Dennis Turner of Jacksonville and lost narrowly 9-7. The diverse field included players from all ages and all skill levels wanting their share of the FTT experience in its unique one tournament for all players style.
Robert "Miami Machine" Anitch was the king of the courts as he played in everything available. His typical answer of "Whatever you want me to play in, I'm in". Antich while losing in the first round to tough ATP pro Luiz Miotto, Rob came back and snapped off the FTT Miami Consolation Tournament defeating Charlie Williams, Cesar Andini, and Carlos Pau thus earning himself the equivalent of 5th place in FTT Ranking points. Antich's premiere in the FTT now establishes himself as the #21 ranked player on the Florida Tennis Tour.
The Goodlet Tennis Center has several fantastic programs including Special Olympics, as well as producing great junior talents such as Emilio Tenacio. Below is the King of the Courts Mr.Miami Machine Rob Antich
Below facility manager Ricky "The Hat" Martinez shows off the goods in a great semi-finals finish
In the Doubles finals, Luiz Miotto of Brazil picked up his road partner Escotto as his partner which led to another win for Miotto. The path was made a little easier with Sykes/Jackson having to withdraw due to Sykes sustaining some minor cramps. Sykes and Jackson had an excruciating, hard fought 8-6 win over Turner/Williams in the semi-finals.
Miotto & Escotto paired up for the win while Sykes & Jackson come runner-up back to back events.
Special guest German Cuesta of Dunlop personally came to watch and support the event
In the singles main draw quarter-finals, Santiago Garcia, who has an interesting ethnic background with a father that is Filipino/Mexican and a mother from Colombia, had come into the event from a tough knockout loss the day before at the ITF Futures. But Saturday in Miami was a brand new day, and he made good use of the fresh start. He defeated good local Miami player Carlos Pau, and then faced the always tough Luiz Miotto an ATP pro from Brazil. Miotto took the lead from the get go with Garcia always behind 2 games. Then Miotto got to a 7-4 lead needing only 1 game to finish off Garcia. But "Smooth" Santi was not done yet and he staved off Miotto's onslaught with quick moves and laser beam focus. Garcia even fought off saving a match point during his comeback. Eventually the match went the distance to 8-8 and a tiebreak. Miotto took the lead in the mini-break 3-0, but the young Garcia kept his composure and came back to tie. Miotto overtook the lead again 5-3 and Garcia again came back to tie. The 7 point tiebreak match decider now had to be extended to win by two, which is what Garcia did at the end in a thrilling 8-6 battle. Miotto, a great sportsman, shook hands and took photos good naturedly after the intense fight on the courts.
"When I went down early on, I just kept telling myself to keep fighting and believing in my game. I told myself to just go
for it, he plays ATP and I have nothing to lose. I aimed to put the match back in my hands by playing aggressive, percentage tennis. Also, I really feel that my greatest strength in tennis is my fight, and my will to win. I never gave up, even being down a match point against his serve. Winners will win, and that is what I finally felt coming together in this FTT tournament", said Garcia who is coached full time by his father Jerry Garcia.
The singles finals pitted Garcia against the FTT #1 Ranked Giancarlo Escotto, the Dominican Express who played Davis Cup for his country. The teenaged Garcia had only played Escotto once before in the FTT season opener in Orlando and dropped a 8-5 decision to his 24 year old senior. But now it was the championship finals and a 2 set match to decide the winner.
Santi finds some air
The finals were not short of spectacular with amazing shots by both players that saw the lead exchange a multitude of times. Garcia of Cocoa Beach High School is coached by his father Jerry Garcia. Escotto is a coach at Estrada Tennis Academy in Orlando and he can be reached for lessons at 1-321-900-7283
Garcia made a good impression taking the first game, but Escotto came out strong as well and re-took the lead. At one point Escotto held a 2 game lead, but only to see Santiago scramble back to stay alive. Eventually the set was extended as neither player could find advantage and inevitably went to a tiebreak. Again Escotto took an early lead, but it was Garcia able to hold the nerves and he took the first set down 7-4. Escotto was not going away though. Both players had devastating serves and lightning fast forehands. The right-handed Escotto muscled in his two handed backhands, while the lefty Garcia smoothed in his one-handed ones. The second set seemed destined to goto another tiebreak, and the players didn't disappoint. The pressure on the FTT #1 was high, as not only the favorite to win, but also to fight so hard to only see another tiebreak loss would be disheartening. But Escotto showed his mental grit, and took down the tiebreak in good form 7-2. Both players were seen fist bumping and yelling (in a good way) to keep themselves motivated in the finals. The third and final set would be a 10 point super tiebreak. Escotto kept the momentum and took the first lead 3-0. It looked grim for Garcia to have come so far and lose, even though it was still a great accomplishment to play so well against a seasoned Davis Cup pro like Escotto. But Garcia decided he was there for more than just a good finish. He came back with points of his own and once more the two players were in a see-saw battle. Leveling the match at 3-3, Garcia then fell behind with Escotto taking back a 2 point cushion at 5-3. Then Garcia came right back again and re-took the lead for the first time at 6-5. Garcia pushed forward with his 3rd wind and got to match point finally at 9-5, Escotto was able to save one more point, but eventually fell to Garcia 10-6 in the most thrilling finals yet of the FTT.
"Being able to win my first Florida Tennis Tour event in Miami, I truly feel that it has given me the needed confidence to prepare for my upcoming ITF Futures tournaments, and for the Clay Court National in Fort Lauderdale on May 14 th . I definitely feel that playing against two professionals improved my confidence and match toughness", said Garcia. He added,
"The FTT has done exactly what it was designed to do, to help the best players develop, stay in shape, and compete in a convenient format. I love the fact that the FTT provides player diversity, prize money, and professional and enjoyable venues to play at. I recommend the FTT for any player in Florida that is looking to have a great time, meet new people, and compete with the best."
Santiago with the winning serve for the match
With the victory in Miami, Garcia not only earned a cash payday but moves up into the #2 spot while Escotto maintains his #1 ranking as has held throughout the entire year so far. Sykes, Jackson, and Miotto all move into the FTT Top 10 for the very first time, while Miotto now is the sole #1 in the Doubles rankings with Sykes and Jackson moving into the #2 spot.
2nd Jason Sykes (JAX, FL) & John Jackson (JAX, FL)
3rd (tie) Dennis Turner (JAX, FL) & Charlie Williams (Orlando FL) ; Robert Antich (Miami) & Cesar Andini (Orlando)
Next event: May 14th Deland at Kurt Collis Tennis Academy
Next Next event: July 16-17 FTT Summer Classic at Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports
Top to bottom clockwise: FTT CEO Charlie Williams, an avid tennis fan, decides to join in the action. Miami's Rob Antich represented his homecourts well. Miami Police Department's Carlos Pau beat a few out of towners while Jacksonville's Dennis Turner won his singles match.
Top to bottom clockwise: A beautiful day in Miami. Turner serves it up in his doubles match with Williams vs Sykes and Jackson.
Proud coach and Emilio's father ecstatic over his semi-finals finish and first time cashing in a tennis event.