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10 Questions For Victor Estrella Burgos

Miami, U.S.A.

Estrella Burgos© AFP/Getty ImagesVictor Estrella Burgos became the first player from the Dominican Republic to crack the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

"The love for the game needs to be there. If you're going to go through the grind, you need to have passion."

When an inspired Roger Federer uttered those words during the 2013 US Open, the 32 year old was not just referring to himself.

The Swiss’s perspective resonates with the entire population of players fighting to cultivate a career on the ATP World Tour, regardless of their background or Emirates ATP Ranking.

Obstacles breed opportunity and can often nourish a player's passion. For World No. 99 Victor Estrella Burgos, the words of his idol epitomise his battle to continue pursuing his dream, even at the age of 33.

Estrella, who turned pro 12 years ago, became the first player from the Dominican Republic to break into the Top 100 after claiming the ATP Challenger Tour title in Salinas, Ecuador, two weeks ago.

The Santiago native will seek just his third tour-level tournament berth when he competes in Sony Open Tennis qualifying this week. Estrella’s road to the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 stop in Miami has been an arduous one, but he is determined to launch his career to new heights in 2014.

Soon after first embarking on his professional career in 2002, Estrella hung up his racquet for a few years and worked as a coach in his home country. After moving to Miami to train in 2006, he resurrected his journey. He would win 18 titles on the Futures circuit before finally breaking through at the Challenger level, capturing his first trophy in Medellin, Colombia, in 2011.

In October 2012, Estrella suffered a setback following a Davis Cup tie against Mexico. While training in his local tennis club, he tore cartilage in his right elbow, sidelining him for six months. By September 2013, he was back with a vengeance, triumphing in Quito and Bogota and has amassed a 19-5 record since early November.

The recent trend of players peaking in their 30s has been a prominent one and Estrella certainly fits that mould. He opens his Miami qualifying campaign against 17 year old Deiton Baughman on Monday and he spoke to about his journey…

(1) How do you explain your sudden ascent to the Top 100 and the success you have enjoyed after all these years?
During my long injury [layoff], I spent six difficult months thinking about retiring. I received support from people close to me that gave me strength to not give up. When I began the recovery process I became more determined, more physically energised and I looked forward to returning. I matured a lot and got stronger mentally too. I trained hard and returned to the tour with the strong desire to win [Emirates ATP Ranking] points, build my confidence and here I am. I won three tournaments and reached another final and almost qualified for the US Open after just four months.

(2) After winning in Salinas, you said “Without a doubt, this was the best moment of my professional career.” EstrellaWhy did you feel that way and what were your emotions?
It was an immense joy to achieve that goal and have the feeling of satisfaction that all the effort and work has paid off. When you have overcome many adversities, the victory is very sweet. It takes pressure off and gives me confidence to continue fighting any challenges with humility, and to never be satisfied with what I have achieved so far.

(3) What is the most difficult aspect of maintaining a professional career in tennis? 
It’s a very physically and mentally demanding sport. You need to understand the best way to not let the adversities affect you. In 2006, I had an opportunity I couldn’t let go if I wanted to succeed. I gave it everything I had inside me and because of that I have achieved what I have today.

(4) You have won four Challenger titles in four finals on clay. Is it your preferred surface? What are the strengths of your game?
Without a doubt it’s my preferred surface, but I’ve also had good results on hard courts. The titles show that on clay I do better. I consider my serve and my forehand to be my strongest shots, and my topspin and slice backhand.

(5) What did you take from the experience of winning your first match on the ATP World Tour in Bogota last year? What areas of your game do you feel you need to improve on to return to that stage and advance even further?
It was a wonderful experience that has me feeling that I can play at that level. I need to maintain my good physical form to return to that stage and aim higher, which is why I continue fighting.

(6) How did you get your start in tennis?
I began playing at age nine when I was a ball boy at a club that was very close to my house in Santiago de los Caballeros.

(7) Who have you looked up to during your career?
I have always admired Roger Federer for the natural, effortless form he plays with. He makes it look so easy with his talent.

Estrella(8) You are the first player from the Dominican Republic to reach the Top 100. Discuss what this achievement means to you.
It’s great that my country is beginning to be recognized for its tennis achievements. We have reached our highest [ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking] of 27. It’s great that we are realising that tennis has a future here and to give it the support that it deserves, especially to the younger players to continue growing their games and improving.

(9) Tell us something about yourself that the majority of fans don’t know. What do you do for fun off the court?
I like baseball a lot. Every time I have the opportunity, I play with my friends in the club where I first played in the Dominican Republic.

(10) What are your goals for the rest of 2014?
Well, my goal is to reach the Top 50 in the [Emirates ATP] Rankings. I am playing my best tennis and I hope to play my first Grand Slam main draw and maintain my position.

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