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Tennis: 34-year-old rookie Estrella Burgos makes most of last chance


Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic returns a shot to Borna Coric of Croatia on Day Four of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Photo - AFP

New York: He's the US Open's oldest rookie but 34-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos has gleefully and tearfully seized his last chance at the big time after a lifetime spent in tennis' twilight zone.

Estrella Burgos, riding a wave of emotional patriotic support, courtesy of hundreds of Dominican Republic expatriates in New York, has made the third round at the US Open where he will face
Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic on Saturday.

It's the latest stop on a compelling rags-to-riches journey which has seen him become his country's only player to ever reach a Grand Slam event.

It's also been a rocky road which saw him take a break from the second-and third-tier Challenge and Futures tours in 2007-2011 to coach instead — a far less unstable existence.

There was also a brief flirtation with thoughts of retirement while trying to keep his competitive instincts sharp by playing the occasional Davis Cup tie.

But with the clock ticking, Estrella Burgos gave life on the road one last shot, not wanting to be left thinking of what might have been.

"I know where I'm coming from. This make me more hungry to do better and better," said Estrella Burgos, the oldest US Open debutant, who made the last 32 by beating highly-regarded 17-year-old Borna Coric.

"I'm the winner, not just for today. Doesn't matter if I'm 38 whatever, this makes me strong. Every time
I get onto the court, it makes me strong.

"I cannot go back. I cannot start to think 'why this doesn't happen when I was 20 or 22 or 24'. Now it is happening when I am 34, I'm very happy."

Estrella Burgos, the third oldest man in the main draw this year behind Radek Stepanek and Ivo Karlovic has enjoyed noisy support from his fellow countrymen during his run at the US Open even if their grasp of the technicalities of the sport may be vague.

In his first round win over Igor Sijsling, there were wild calls of 'out' when balls were clearly still in play.

But the player is happy to have the support of large chunks of New York's Dominican community, estimated to be well ever half a million with many living nearby in the Queen's neighbourhood of Corona.

"I have like a thousand coaches because of all of them," smiled the man who played his first Grand Slam events earlier this year at the French Open and Wimbledon.

The same Victor
They ended quickly with first round losses but even with a chance of a fourth round spot approaching on Saturday and with over $100,000 already guaranteed, the world number 80 insists he will not be getting too carried away.

"I don't think this going to change my life. I think I am going to be the same Victor, the same Victor working every day very hard, happy to be in the locker room," said Estrella Burgos who broke down in tears after his second round win.

Raonic, a Wimbledon semifinalist this year, said he knows what to expect from Estrella Burgos despite his opponent's humble tennis pedigree.

"I played him 2010. I saved a few match points in a Davis Cup match against him," he said.

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