Thomas Estrada of Colombia – played singles against and doubles with del Potro, and gave it all up to study and live in the US

Translated from this piece  by from El Columbiano by Luz Élida Molida Marín

He played singles against Juan Martin del Potro, was beaten, then played doubles with him.

They had parallel careers, and they both should have figured in the ATP TOP 50, but history willed it otherwise: the Argentine continued playing and got to number four in the ATP rankings, while Thomas Estrada shelved his racquet and went to study and live in the US.

The lack of support coupled with the high cost of playing tennis forced the number one South American junior to end his story before it started. “It was very difficult to continue. In Colombia in 2010 there weren’t tournaments big enough  to get points and I had no sponsors; I was living out of my parents’ pockets. It was too much and I had to quit,” explains the manager of the Fortuna Bakery in Orlando, Florida.

When he watches Juan Martin play, his mind goes back to the tennis courts and the days when he fought like a lion against del Potro and local Colombians Michael Quintero, Francisco Franco, Sebastian Gallego, Santiago Giraldo and Robert Farah.

The decision Thomas made pained not only him but also his coach of two years Fernando Rodas. ” I was desolated when he quit. His talent was impressive. I was sure that his technical and tactical ability would make him a force in the tennis world.”

He had a very tough mental struggle deciding between the financial difficulties of a tennis career and an academic scholarship, but, in the end, the scholarship won out. That’s the reason Thomas travelled to the States, where he now has economics and graphic design degrees, two professions he’s now combining.

His love and passion for tennis means he’s to be found in the stands at every US Open. From there he follows Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Falla and his good friend del Potro.

“It’s difficult seeing them play and thinking I could have been there. I get very nostalgic,” says the Columbian, who misses the atmosphere and the competition.

A week ago he got the bug and picked up a racquet again for the first time in three years. He played against another Colombian, a wiry businessman, and he won 6-0 6-0 just like when he was at his peak.

Never mind that he was panting and and asking for time every 15 minutes to hydrate, he felt good.

“The truth is, he was the one who was dead and I told him to take a water break to let him catch his breath,” laughs the Antioquian native, holding like a great treasure the racquet which last was used in 2010 when, at 22, he decided to quit.

For more on the financial difficulties, read this piece, an Équipe interview with Gilles Simon, this piece from l’Équipe on wealth and poverty on the tennis tour, this piece in l’Équipe about Antoine Benneteau’s problems making it on the ITF Futures tour, and this piece featuring Pauline Parmentier talking about the problems on the ITF Challenger tour.

Translated by MAN

Pauline Parmentier on playing the ITF tour: “Some players ask to live with a host family”

From the print edition of l’Équipe April 7, 2015 page 11. Interview by Sophie Dorgan

“Some ask to live with a host family” Pauline Parmentier explains the differences between the women’s tour, which has less money, and the men’s.

Fallen to 250 in the world November 2013, Pauline Parmentier had to fight on the secondary tour to get back into the well-known top 100. She weighs the differences between the WTA and the ITF secondary tour and shines a light on a very relative parity.

“Everything is very complicated at the small tournaments. We play without ball persons and without line umpires until the semi-finals, sometimes the finals.  There are two shuttles a day to get to the site. If you play at 17.00,  you need to leave at 10. But we shouldn’t complain in France. We’re lucky to have GDF-Suez which sponsors numerous tournaments. A Bulgarian has zero where she lives. You need the drive and the sponsors, because money-wise it’s tough. If you travel outside the country, you lose money playing the $10K’s. Lodging is rarely taken into account. Some players ask to live with a host family to avoid paying for a hotel; others live 3 to a room.

On the secondary circuit, many players have no staff. You open up more to other players, you eat together, it’s nicer. At the big tournaments, everyone’s on their own, eat with their teams and nothing much happens. On the other hand, it’s complicated in terms of programming. We have far fewer tournaments than the men. During a WTA meeting, a player, who is ranked around 130, explained that if you don’t get into the qualies at Indian Wells, there’s zero choice of tournaments for a month and a half. The ATP tries to make sure everyone is playing. The WTA revolves more around top players.”

Translated by MAN