May 8th, 2019

Popko Continues Florida Tennis Tear with USTA Pro Circuit Vero Beach Title

USTA Pro Circuit

Kazakhstan’s Dmitry Popko must be contemplating a second residence in Florida after raising the trophy last Sunday at the $25,000 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, the annual USTA Pro Circuit and ITF World Tennis Tour event in Vero Beach.

Popko defeated Bradenton native and former University of Florida star Sekou Bangoura 6-1, 7-6(1) for his fourth title in Florida this year following wins in Naples, Sunrise, and Orange Park.

“This one means a lot because it’s a $25,000 event and also gave me three ATP points and put me in the Top 10 of the ITF rankings,” the 22-year-old said afterwards. “Now I can play challenger-level tournaments and hopefully I’m going to earn as many ATP points as I can and then see where it’s going to bring me.”

The Kazakhstan Davis Cup team member cancelled his plans to play in this week’s Pensacola ITF stop as he was accepted into the higher-level Shymkent Challenger in his adopted Kazakhstan. He sped to the airport to fly half way around the world immediately following the singles final.

Seeded No. 8 in the field, Popko won his seventh ITF-level event of 2019 and is on a 15-match winning streak, victorious in 31 of his last 33 matches.

Bangoura was appearing in his second final of the year after winning a title in Naples. The 27-year-old was not helped by playing his rain-delayed semifinal on Sunday morning, winning in three sets. He lead 5-2 in the second set before eventually succumbing in a tiebreaker, changing his approach by crashing the net after losing a quick opening set.

“He started to come in more and kind of broke my rhythm,” Popko said. “He adjusted it by himself and made me uncomfortable. I was down 2-5 and had to fight back. I picked up my level and that’s how I went up 6-5.”

Bangoura broke serve to force the tiebreak but Popko ran away with it at that point, winning six consecutive points.

Italians Lorenzo Frigerio and Adelchi Virgili captured the doubles title, in the final upsetting top seeds Boris Arias of the Bolivian Davis Cup team and Bangoura 6-4, 6-3.

The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships 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 benefiting children named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, the former Top 10 tennis star and the current U.S. Davis Cup captain.

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