• US Open

Estrella Burgos blazing a trail at Flushing Meadows

Michael Beattie at Flushing Meadows
August 29, 2014
Victor Estrella Burgos is playing in just his third grand slam at the age of 34 © Getty Images

Five reasons Victor Estrella Burgos is your new favourite tennis player:

1. At 34, he's the oldest ever debutant at the US Open

Remember how everybody is in awe of Roger Federer for still playing the game at the age of 33?

Burgos, a year older, is still scrapping for a shred of big time - and coming good at last. A year ago he was ranked outside the world's top 300.

Now, with a string of fine Challenger results propelling him to ATP Tour-level events and a place in the world's top 100 - No.80, to be precise - he has finally reached the promised land, the main draw at a grand slam.

2. He's blazing a trail for the Dominican Republic

Having made it to the US Open, he hasn't stopped there. First came Igor Sijsling, a serious Dutchman with a solid game - dispatched on Court 6 in four sets.

On Thursday he returned to the same court to face up-and-coming Croatian Borna Coric, a player half his age - and dished out another four-set beating.

Every victory sets a new benchmark for Dominican tennis - and, Estrella Burgos hopes, inspires the next generation of players from his home country.

"I'm in the winner, not just for today," he said in his broken English after beating Coric. "I'm top 100, I have my entry to US Open - I'm a winner already. But now the winner is very different, it's bigger. I'm in the third round. I'm very happy. People from Dominican, I think they are in the party now."

3. He learnt to play the game at a Santiago country club...

…as a ball boy.

At the age of eight, to keep him from constantly fighting with his brothers, his father took him to the local tennis club and asked the coach to wear him out by collecting balls.

"My first time, nobody was teaching me," Estrella Burgos told the New York Times. "I think I saw, I copied from other people, how they played, and then I start to play. Thank God the club allowed me to play, because I was a hyper kid, but I never made trouble."

4. He has the rowdiest supporters in New York, bar none

The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is a stone's throw from Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Go to a Burgos match, however, and you'd figure a few baseball fans had taken a wrong turn leaving the No.7 subway.

Chants, cheers, cat-calls, boos, and even shouts of 'out' mid-point - something Estrella Burgos himself had to ask his supporters to cut out during his first round match - the crowd fire them all at their man, and the man standing in his way.

"If here we have 10 Dominican people, it's going to be like 100, for sure," Burgos told the New York Times ahead of the US Open. With a spot on a show court all but guaranteed against No.5 seed Milos Raonic, the Canadian will have to contend with far more fans of Estrella Burgos than that.

5. He's living every latter-day sportsman's dream

What Sean Bean did with Sheffield United in When Saturday Comes, Victor Estrella Burgos is doing at the US Open - making one last shot at the big time count. With injuries and debt, he quit the sport for almost five years before returning for one last stab at the big time.

What a decision. What a journey. And whatever its conclusion, what a story.

Michael Beattie is a tennis writer for ESPN. Follow him on Twitter here.

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