Inspiring Estrella wins Quito at 34, Veterans Gasquet and Garcia-Lopez Add To Their Trophy Case
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The legend of Victor Estrella continues to grow, the 34 old won his maiden ATP title in Quito, becoming the first Dominican player to capture an ATP title. Estrella is set to soar past his previous career high ranking of 65 after winning a thrilling three setter with top seed, and top 15 player Feliciano Lopez 6-2 6-7 7-6. Estrella was up a break in the third set, and surrendered it, but he held his serve and got the match to a tiebreak, where he seized a crucial advantage over the Spaniard and took it 7-5. Estrella over the past 15 or so months has been the most inspiring story in tennis, and is a testament to hard work and never giving up on your dreams. He has received little support and considered dropping tennis due to financial difficulties given the lack of support from his undeveloped federation. He was the definition of journeyman until 11 months ago when he broke into the top 100 for the first time. Since them, he’s established himself at the ATP level and also done well in his first Slam main draws.
Estrella began his run this week with a win over Andre Ghem, after that he beat Renzo Olivo, and upset 4 seed Martin Klizan to reach the semis, all without dropping a set. In the semis, he held on against Bellucci, who gave the match away in straights. ATP 250 events often receive criticism for field quality, and so much of the attention in the tennis world gets focused on the top 10 and the Masters and Slam level events, but if you ask me, Estrella and his story are what pro tennis is all about, he’s certainly not the most physically gifted or technically skilled player on tour, but with heart, and drive, he has gotten himself this far on tour, and the run doesn’t appear to be likely to end anytime soon. This is a sport where the grittiest, most dedicated players can post good results, and this was a magical week for Victor Estrella.
As for the top seed Lopez, he remains a Spaniard without a clay court title, Feli beat Alejandro Gonzalez in straights, Dusan Lajovic in 3 sets, from a set down and staring triple break point in the face in set 2, and Fernando Verdasco in a pair of tiebreaks, as Verdasco was unable to convert his chances in that match and mentally collapsed under pressure. His slice and serve was generally effective this week en route to the final.
Estrella pulled double duty in Quito this week, as he and his partner Joao Souza reached the doubles final, however it was Germans Gero Kretschmer and Alexander Satschko that took the doubles title in the end.
Richard Gasquet claimed his third career Montpellier title thanks to a retirement from an ill Jerzy Janowicz. Janowicz would have been bidding for his maiden ATP title but he simply wasn’t physically able to contest this match, retiring after 3 games. Gasquet staved off Lucas Poulle in straights, avoiding a third set against the young gun, and then beat Denis Istomin and Gael Monfils to reach the final. Monfils was also struggling with an undisclosed illness.
Janowicz had a great week, in fact already showing considerable improvements to his game after a dismal 2014. The Polish number one saved six match points against Dustin Brown to advance in 3 sets, and then also beat Benoit Paire in 3 sets to reach the quarters. Janowicz showed clutch play and steady improvement as he beat Gilles Simon in straights and Joao Sousa in 3 sets, with a third set breadstick in his final competitive match, and it’s a shame the final never took place.
Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell beat Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea, the top seeds, to win the doubles title, Sitak and Daniell are the first New Zealand pairing to win an ATP doubles title in decades.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won his second career indoor hard court title in Zagreb, upsetting the favored, and in form Andreas Seppi, who has been off to a hot start in 2015. GGL and Seppi were neck and neck in the first set, and GGL clawed back a minibreak to take the first set, in the second, it was likewise close, but Seppi played a poor service game at 3-4 to get broken, and GGL served the match out after that for a 7-6 6-3 victory. It was close but GGL had fewer errors in his game and won the longer rallies, as he continues to post up and down results with his diverse game.
Garcia-Lopez demolished Damir Dzumhur in round 2, then beat Viktor Troicki in a close 3 set contest, and fellow veteran Marcos Baghdatis in the semifinals 4 and 4. Baghdatis had previously saved a match point to defeat Ivo Karlovic in round 2, and was perhaps fatigued from having three previous three set wins (over Toni Androic, Mikhail Youzhny and Karlovic) to reach the semifinals.
Seppi didn’t have any easy matches this week, he needed 3 sets against Robin Haase, James Ward, and Ricardas Berankis, that match decided in a tight third set tiebreak, and then he won a first set breaker and went on to breadstick Marcel Granollers for a straight set win in the semifinals. Outside of Berankis, and perhaps Igor Sijsling, all of the quarterfinalists in Zagreb this week were veteran players (Baghdatis, Youzhny, GGL, Troicki, Seppi, Granollers). Seppi already has an ATP final, an ATP semi (Doha) and the second week of a Slam (the AO) on his resume and it’s just now the second week of February as he has been on a tear as of late.
Home fans in Croatia had something to cheer about as Marin Draganja, a Croat, along with his partner Henri Kontinen of Finland beat Fabrice Martin and Purav Raja to capture the Zagreb doubles title. Croatian legends Ivan Ljubicic and Goran Ivanisevic were on hand to celebrate with the Zagreb winners this week, in a nice moment at the end of the tournament.