By Dave Gertler
(July 30, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Victor Estrella Burgos, the Dominican journeyman who broke into the top 100 for the first time in March, will celebrate his 34th birthday with a new career-high ranking, after claiming the scalp of the Citi Open’s eighth seed, beating Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-4 on Wednesday.
With no breaks of serve in the first set, Lopez served three consecutive aces to take it to a tie-break. Estrella – basking in the Washington, DC heat – used his power and whipping topspin from the baseline to gain a vital mini-break at 5-4, and managed to hold on for the opening set, much to the delight of a small but vocal nucleus of Dominican supporters.
“I tell you, if you have ten Dominican people here, it’s gonna be like 100,” said Estrella Burgos, who along with his first-round win against Tobias Kamke, has now compiled four main-draw career wins over top-100 players at ATP events, all of which have remarkably have come in 2014.
Lopez was broken to 15 early in the second set, and showed signs of nursing a slight arm strain in between points. Serving only three aces in the second set compared to nine in the first, the 32-year-old Spaniard also showed signs of irritation at the enthusiasm with which his unforced errors were welcomed by Estrella Burgos’ supporters. The 5’8” Dominican would save the only break point Lopez could muster in the second set, closing the match out in 78 minutes.
“If I can still play till Saturday, it’s gonna be the best birthday of my life, for sure,” said Estrella Burgos, of his potential progress at the Citi Open. Ranked No.386 a year ago, he reached the second round of the Claro Colombia Open as a qualifier. This year at the same event, he reached the first ATP semi-final of his career, claiming a win over world No.14 Richard Gasquet along the way.
Now ranked No.87, Estrella Burgos has the chance to go even deeper in the Citi Open draw if he can replicate his recent form in his third-round match against Santiago Giraldo. “I working hard to be here,” said Estrella Burgos when asked how he feels about his late-career purple patch, “Every unbelievable shot I do today, I think, I worked for that.”
In a March interview with Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com, Estrella Burgos described a 6-month layoff due to injury in 2012/13 as being fundamental to his ascension to the top 100, from outside the top 300, in just under a year, saying, “When I began the recovery process I became more determined, more physically energized and I looked forward to returning. I matured a lot and got stronger mentally too. I trained hard and returned to the tour with the strong desire to win (Emirates ATP Ranking) points, build my confidence and here I am.”
“Today I do some backhand passing shot for broke him in the second set,” said the 5’8” Dominican, who has spent most of his 13-year career on the Challenger and Futures tours, “I never do that in Challenger. I think it’s a motivator.”
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .