US Open 2014: Victor Estrella Burgos gets Dominicans cheering


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The Independent Online

Grand Slam competitors come in all shapes, colours and sizes, but nobody is quite like Victor Estrella Burgos. Standing at 5ft 8in the world No 80 is short by modern standards, but that is not his main claim to fame.

At the age of 34, after many years competing in the twilight world of the Challenger circuit, he has become the first man from the Dominican Republic to break into the world’s top 100 and the first to take part in a Grand Slam tournament. More than compete, Estrella Burgos has shown he can play.

Having knocked out the Dutchman Igor Sijsling in the first round of the US Open, he beat Borna Coric, a highly rated 17-year-old from Croatia, in the second. It was reported as the largest gap in age between male opponents in the event’s history. Coric, who won the junior title here last year and had crushed the No 29 seed Lukas Rosol in his opening match, was beaten  7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. For the second match in a row Estrella Burgos enjoyed raucous support from Dominican fans. There is a sizeable Dominican community in the city here, though the sports fans among them are more used to watching players from their baseball-mad country over the road at the home of the New York Mets.

“There were 1,000 Dominicans – and also 1,000 coaches,” Estrella Burgos said. “They were yelling at me all the time: ‘Just serve to the T’ and ‘Keep slicing’. Nothing negative. They want me to win. They’re very excited with my results. The Dominicans are the best fans, cheering for you until the end.”

Before arriving here Estrella Burgos had banked just $485,879 (about £293,000) in his whole career. His two victories this week have already earned him prize money of $105,090 (about £63,000), though he will do well to add to that as he faces Milos Raonic, the world No 6, in the third round today. 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.”