Victor Estrella Burgos’ historic appearance at the U.S. Open may have come to an end, but his presence has left a lasting impression
The 34-year-old Dominican tennis player, who after many years competing in the twilight world of the Challenger circuit became the country’s first-ever representative in a major at this year’s U.S. Open, lost to No. 5 seed Milos Raonic on Saturday in a hard-fought third round match that lasted two hours and 43 minutes.
Estrella Burgos, short and fast in the Michael Chang mold and owner of a cutting single-handed backhand slice and solid serve, out-aced the Canadian king of aces 8-7, but could not stop him closing it out in three tie-breaks, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3).
“It was difficult,” Raonic conceded. “He’s playing well. He’s playing with a lot of aspiration. It was a lot of fun, the atmosphere out there. But I believe I can play better. I believe I will.”
Estrella Burgos, who turned pro in 2002, had only earned $485,879 in his career prior to his first appearance at the U.S. Open. He came desperately close to extending the match into a fourth set, when serving for the third, but faltered at the key moment.
Estrella Burgos did not play in professional tournaments until he was 26 as he could not afford to travel. He also had to take an eight-month break from the sport after suffering a serious injury to his right elbow in 2012.
“It wasn’t until three years ago that I started to focus on my fitness,” he said. “I can play against anyone with top-quality tennis, but being in shape is the key to sticking on the tour for several more years.”
But Estrella Burgos was delighted just to be competing at the grand slam event in Flushing, New York, on the biggest stage he’s ever likely to stride in the game.
“It was really amazing,” said Estrella Burgos, who earlier this year became the first Dominican to reach the top 100 in the ATP rankings. “For me, it was the best week: third round of the US Open. I think I won, how much I don’t know, $110,000? But I have to pay the taxes.
“I lost today, but it was my best match [of the tournament]. I played at a very good level. The three sets were very close. I was serving for the set in the third set. I cannot close the set, but I’m not so … I’m not too sad.”
Raonic, not always known for his warmth, embraced Estrella Burgos at the net, relieved to get into the second week and perhaps happy, too, to see the back of an opponent who did not just “turn up” but gave him a serious fright.
Reality will soon kick in for Estrella Burgos when he returns to the outer fringes of his sport, but he has had a taste of the big time and he likes it very much and intends to play the ATP World Tour in Europe, adding: “For sure I’m going to play the Australian Open. I want to try to mix it. I want to play more ATP than Challenger.”
Away from the tennis, Estrella Burgos has spent most of his time at his New York hotel with his family and having “a really good time” with “a lot of friends”.
He has not neglected his tennis, though, and prepared hard for longer matches. “I have so much confidence,” he said. “When I go on to the court, I don’t care if I play five sets, I am feeling OK. Today I was two sets down and in the third set thinking, OK, I want to make this game five sets.”