The 26-year-old is making a name for himself on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Victor Estrella Burgos may have put tennis on the map in the Dominican Republic in recent years, but another player from the country of just over 10 million people could also soon be making his mark on the biggest stages in tennis.
Jose Hernandez-Fernandez reached a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking last year of No. 179, but is proving that he has the game to climb much higher than that. He’s reached five career ATP Challenger Tour semi-finals, all of which came on clay. Although he is proud to play for the Dominican Republic, he joked that time he recently spent back home resulted in some unconventional training methods.
“Tennis is not a big sport back home, so there aren’t a lot of players to hit with or coaches to work with,” said Hernandez-Fernandez, speaking from last month’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Sarasota, Florida. “You just go to the beach, get a pina colada and enjoy the waves.”
That could soon be changing, though. With Estrella Burgos making headlines for his two ATP World Tour titles in Quito, Hernandez-Fernandez said that the veteran player has become an influence not only for young kids in the Dominican Republic, but also for himself.
“I talk to him a lot. He’s given me a lot of confidence when I need it and is always there for me,” said Hernandez-Fernandez. “And he’s very funny off the court. He’s a great guy. He’s an inspiration not only to me, but to all the players in the region.”
Growing up, Hernandez-Fernandez’s biggest tennis inspirations could be found in his house. His mom represented the Dominican Republic in the Pan American Games, while his uncle was an avid recreational player. After beginning to play at his local club and enjoying plenty of junior success, Hernandez-Fernandez eventually went on to play three years of college tennis at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He credits his time in college with helping him successfully transition to the pro tour.
“College tennis is a great stepping stone. John Isner, Steve Johnson and Somdev Devvarman all went to college and then pretty much moved straight into the Top 100,” he said. “Plus I didn’t have to worry about making a living at tennis until I was 22. Instead of being stuck at the Futures level for many years, it’s a great chance for players to get an education and also play good tennis.”
But now that Hernandez-Fernandez is fully settled into life on tour, the 26-year-old is ready to take his game to the next level in 2016.
“I want to crack the Top 100, but…it’s [more] about how I feel on the court and whether or not I’ve improved from last year,” said Hernandez-Fernandez. “As long as that keeps getting better, then everything else will come.”