The Dominican Republic’s 28-year old Davis Cup player, Victor Estrella, is featured this month.
December saw Estrella return to his home nation to compete in three Futures tournaments just as he did at the end of 2007. Looking to emulate his success of 2007 when he won three consecutive singles titles in the Dominican Republic, Estrella, the number one seed, began with a tight three set victory (64 46 64) over 18-year old local player Jose Hernandez, a Wildcard entrant. American qualifier Sheeva Parbhu and Korean Daniel Yoo were then beaten in straight sets in the following two rounds, 76(3) 62 and 76(4) 63 respectively. Estrella took his place in the final, his second in 2008, with a 63 64 win over another qualifier, Belgium’s David Goffin, in the semi final. Eighth seeded Philipp Oswald from Austria, who was also making his second appearance in a Futures singles final in 2008, took the title with a close 76(2) 64 victory over Estrella. With Leury Arias, Estrella’s participation in the doubles event ended with defeat in the opening round. The pair, in as Wildcard entrants, were defeated by the third seeds 64 46 [10-5].
In his second tournament, Estrella, again the top seeded player, started with a match against Romanian qualifier Ilie-Aurelian Giurgiu. Having taken the first set 62, Estrella then dropped the second set 64 before securing victory in the deciding set 63. Wildcard entrant Marcelo Arevalo was only able to take four games off Estrella in the second round with Estrella defeating the player from El Salvador 63 61 to move into the quarterfinal and a match with Antal Van Der Duim. A 64 63 victory over the Dutchman set Estrella up with a second successive semi final against Belgian opposition. Estrella and his opponent Germain Gigounon required a tiebreak to separate them in the first set, which was won by Estrella 7-3. Gigounon only managed three games in the second set as Estrella won through to his second final in as many weeks. Russia’s Andrey Kumantsov, runner-up at Dominican Republic F2 Futures, was the player aiming to stop Estrella claiming the title and in doing so winning his first career singles title. The final proved to be a close match and it was Estrella who emerged victorious, defeating his unseeded opponent 76(4) 64 to claim a ninth career singles title. The doubles event saw a change in partner from the previous week for Estrella but unfortunately no change in fortune. With Jose Hernandez as his new partner, another first round exit came about following a tight 75 76(6) defeat against the number one seeded pair.
In Estrella’s final tournament of 2008, he was named the top seed for the third time running. His quest to win back-to-back Futures singles titles got off to the perfect start with a convincing straight sets 62 62 victory over Adam El Mihdawy from America. In the second round, he faced another American player, Dennis Zivkovic. Zivkovic, who came through the qualifying event, won the last encounter between the two players in the final of USA F17 in 2006 and after splitting the first two sets on tie-breakers, Estrella avenged that 2006 defeat by taking the deciding set for a 67(1) 76(4) 64 win. Fifth seeded Frenchman Vincent Millot put up a fight in the quarterfinal after losing the opening set 62 but was unable to prevent Estrella progressing to a third semi final this month with Estrella eventually winning 62 46 76(5). Ukrainian qualifier, Ivan Anikanov was then beaten 62 64 to set Estella up with a final encounter against Wildcard entrant Jhonson Garcia, his regular Davis Cup doubles partner and also his doubles partner at this tournament!
Before facing each other across the net, Estrella and Garcia, as Wildcards, defeated the second seeds 64 60 in the doubles final to claim their second title together, almost six years after winning their first title, although this was the first doubles Futures event they had competed in together since the end of March 2004.
With the doubles title secured, the two players could begin preparations for their singles final. Having played together for so many years both players would be eager to see who could exploit weaknesses in their compatriots’ game. Going into this match, it was Estrella who led 2-1 in the head-to-head count although it was Garcia who was victorious in their last match two years ago. As in previous meetings this was to be another closely fought match. Knowing each other’s games so well, both players pushed each other hard forcing the opening set into a tiebreak, which was won by Estrella. The second set, like the first, saw both players fighting hard for the win that would either keep Garcia in the match or give Estrella the title. With the set score at 54 in Estrella’s favour, Garcia knew he had to win the next game or the match was over. Fortunately for Estrella, he took the game and with it the title, plus he increased his win-loss record over his doubles partner to 3-1.
Coming into December, Estrella had one singles title to his name for 2008 but in what proved to be a successful month he finished 2008 with three singles titles and one doubles title. His overall career record in Futures tournaments now stands at ten singles titles from fifteen finals and three doubles titles from five finals.
Estrella is now closing in on his career high singles ATP World Ranking of 214, achieved in September 2008, and if he can carry his December form into the New Year then we can expect to see him breaking into the ATP top 200.
Victor Estrella has been nominated as part of the Dominican Republic’s Davis Cup squad each year since making his debut in the competition in 1998 with the exception of 1999.