Tennis Prose



Victor Estrella Burgos: Ultimate Example of Dedication & Perseverance

Victor Estrella Burgos started playing tennis in the Dominican Republic, not exactly a hotbed of state of the art coaching, tennis training facilities or heritage and tradition.

Estrella, which means “star” in Spanish, reached the ATP top thousand at age 26, an age when many players have already given up pro tennis.

Estrella persevered for seven more years of grinding and battling in Futures and Challengers, not to mention overcoming injuries and setbacks, such as the six month elbow injury two years ago. Earlier this year in March, Estrella won the Salinas Challenger and Ecuador which vaulted him into the ATP top hundred for the first time – at age 33. He may be the oldest man to ever crack the ATP top hundred for the first time (can only think of Dick Norman and Wayne Arthurs).

As a top hundred player, Estrella earned main draw entry into the French Open and Wimbledon, where he lost to Janowicz and Vesely, respectively. These were the first times Estrella ever competed in a Grand Slam main draw, after years of failures at the US Open qualies.

I saw Estrella play several times in US Open qualies, he always receives loud and animated support from local Dominican friends, family and fans, but he always came up short. Despite some good wins at Flushing Meadows, he could never string together three quali matches wins. One year he beat Malisse but then lost the third match. Same old story. I remember seeing Estrella lose a few years ago and thinking to myself, “Too bad, this is probably the end for him. Tennis can be such a cruel sport.”

This year, at 33, Estrella’s dedication and perseverance has paid off. He’s now ranked 92 in the world and at the Bogota ATP event this week, Estrella defeated Gasquet in the quarters – only his fifth career ATP level win and first top 20 win – and he’s now in the semis where he will meet Tomic.

In some ways, the incredible tennis journey by Estrella and his example is more impressive than Federer or Nadal.

You have to think Federer and Nadal look at Estrella and just think to themselves, WOW.

Like how Apollo Creed looked at Rocky Balboa with awe, amazement and admiration, in the famous movie “Rocky”, when the Italian Stallion got up from the fourteenth round knockdown, bloodied, battered, beaten…but he would not give up.

Victor Estrella is making ATP history. And should be a lock selection as the ATP Most Improved Player or Comeback Player of the Year.

Maybe they should rename the award in his honor.


Here’s a quote by Estrella in an interview earlier this year with ATP’s Josh Meiseles: “During my long injury [layoff], I spent six difficult months thinking about retiring. I received support from people close to me that gave me strength to not give up. 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. I won three tournaments and reached another final and almost qualified for the US Open after just four months.”

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  • Dan Markowitz · July 20, 2014 at 6:04 am

    That’s some story about Estrella. Am I jaded though, when I read about a guy like Estrella breaking the Top 100 for the first time at 33, after years of being a Challenger player and no more, (I guess he still is mostly a Challenger player), I think steroids. Also, maybe because the guy is built like a little tank.

    He’s fun to watch. I remember him playing DY at last year’s USO qualis. I guess this year neither DY or Estrella will have to qualify. Jeff Salzenstein also broke the Top 100 (No. 100 and got into the main draw at Wimby) after the age of 30.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 20, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Dan, one of the guys at my courts in Overpeck Park is friends with Estrella and he says when Victor comes to NJ before US Open qualies he lets him use his stringing machine to string his racquets. Also, Estrella has never had a sponsor ever in his career, he’s accomplished this all independently. He’s also 5-foot-7. Maybe you should do a book about this guy. Victor Estrella, The ultimate Underdog…BTW he lost 67 76 67 to Tomic. What a battle.

  • gans · July 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Scoop, what a story! Thanks to your passion for the sport- only in this site we get to hear such astonishing stories. For every Djokovic, Nadal or federer, we have thousands of Estrellas trying super hard to make ends meet.
    By knowing the journey of these people, we get to truly appreciate the accomplishments of the greats as well.
    Thank you, Dan and others responsible for running this wonderful website for tennis.
    From a true lover of the sport!

  • Thomas Tung · July 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    That’s an incredible story, Scoop. Would love to see a Biofile on Burgos.

  • Russeljones · July 21, 2014 at 2:47 am

    Great story. These guys are the unsung heroes of the game. I would love to read more about them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Thanks Gans, we are more than happy to serve our readers with our inside perspectives and love of pro tennis. Thanks for tuning in. “By knowing the journey of these people, we get to truly appreciate the accomplishments of the greats as well.” …such an accurate quote. All the players who make up the WTA and ATP Tours are important and special cogs in the machine. Every one of them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Thanks Thomas, I plan to do one with Victor at US Open. Hope he can string a few good wins there, or even make it to second week. At this rate of making semis, who knows maybe it’s very possible.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 9:24 am

    They truly are Russell. Former ATP 229 Pierre Duclos told me that the players ranked outside of top hundred and two hundred deserve higher pay and I think they do (he barely made any money in his career). The 200th best soccer and football and hockey and baseball players in the world are millionaires but not in tennis. Equal prize money for men and women may have to be changed and lower ranked players like Duclos deserve a bigger cut.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    The money can be better, but if you make the first round of all the slams in a calendar year you’re going to make it $120 g right there. That’s not bad pay. The market bears what these guys/gals make. The fact of the matter is that Challenger/Futures tournaments in the US you can’t give away free tickets to these events. It’s sad but true. So the motivation for these players has to be to get into the Top 100 to get decent pay days.

  • Andrew Miller · July 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Dan…tickets for qualies where i am for a regular atp tpurnament cost over twenty bucks. Normalseat. There is the issue right there. People like me huge fans limited cash and my only way in is either buds in high places or ballboy usher job. Meanwhile there are bought seats with no people in them. If i were a corporation id give those seats to fans etc. Buy em.and fill em.or allow a tournament to fill at lower cost .

  • Andrew Miller · July 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Basically top fellas should get more cash to challengers so that they can do more . The income for top guys is hige and for rest of players is same or lower for decades.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    $3 million for the winner of a major is too much IMO, it should be spread out to the lesser players more. But I guess the majors can easily afford to pay $3 million to a winner and there just isn’t much interest amongst fans in Challengers and Futures. Everybody loves the majors which make the tennis world go ’round.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Andrew, the Washington D C tournament charges $20 for the qualis? Are you sure about that? In Newport, I think–I didnt check this year–you can get a regular seat for around $30 during the main draw. I know D.C. is a big tennis city. They even draw well for World Team Tennis. In New York City, there is no WTT team starting this summer. Shows you that fans don’t care about watching Jesse Witten play Robert Kendrick or Brendan Evans.

  • Andrew Miller · July 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Dan yes, likely b/c it’s owned by Citibank (“Citi Open”). When it was owned by a local bank qualies were free and it was easy to roam around courts, see Rios, Kafelnikov, Spadea etc. – tournament got even better because it became dual WTA/ATP – lower ranked “challenger” level for the WTA side and regular “Del Potro” level for the ATP side. This is where I saw Rios play, Spadea too. Agassi a bunch. Saw Roddick play and practice, Gimelstob, Gambill the Bryan bros, Michael Joyce, Soderling as a 17 year old losing his qualies match to Dancevic (who hit every ball as if it were his last and yelped after each blast as if he needed to go to the emergency room…that was a painful match to watch – he grimmaced with every ball, miraculously won the match then walked off as if he could do it again. Bizarre). I saw Spadea play one match also – the serve/bh were both sweet and the FH looked pretty good at this point, I think he had already re-worked it.

    Why more players don’t do that – re-work their trouble shot – shocks me. The results were so clear for Fish, Spadea even Roddick etc.

    To get back to your point Dan yes, the price is really high. So much so I might wait and go hit a challenger instead unless I can get into the tournament – maybe they’ll be some giveaway by radio.

  • JG · July 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Citi Open Qualies are $10, Dan or Scoop you coming down for it, want to hit some balls? It’s also pretty easy to get freebies.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 21, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Jon, love to hit some balls with you after all these years. Maybe we could Coach Roski (was that his name?) to come over and watch our play.

    Scoop and I were up in Newport for the week and got to hit on the grass up there. Great experience. Scoop asked me a few days ago if I wanted to go down to DC. I said no at the time because I spent another week in Cape Cod after Newport and then I’ve got US Open coming up–two weeks I go out to FM almost every day–but maybe I’ll see if I can come down early next week to DC for a few days.

    When are you going down, Scoop?

  • JG · July 21, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Great, let me know, look forward to it!

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    JG I will be in DC during the week for a few days, would love to hit some.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    DY with another one of his major sub-par performances losing 3 and love to Sela. DY has to get it together. I asked him last week who’s coaching him and he said his parents and this friend of his who I saw later was an overweight guy who didn’t look to be a pro coach.

    Q-ball with nice win over Steve Jo.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Sela must be playing great ball, lost two razor this matches to Dr. Ivo in Newport and Bogota, where Dr. Ivo finaled both events. Sela is red hot right now. Still a tough loss for DY the same day his Biofile runs at the atp site.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    BTW, Estrella is the all time oldest first time entrant into the ATP top hundred…
    @scoopmalinowski @sharkotennis Yep, Estrella oldest (at 33.6) to enter top 100 the 1st time. Next is Norman (31.6) then Salzenstein (30.7).

  • Andrew Miller · July 22, 2014 at 12:22 am

    In other news kirilenko breaks off engagement with ovechkin. Always liked kirilenko . She is getting back to tennis.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 22, 2014 at 2:28 am

    What is with it with these tennis players breaking engagements and relationships? It’s rampant. It goes back to the days of Evert and Connors. I guess Kirilenko wants to save herself for Stepanek.

  • Gaurang · July 22, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Scoop. congratulations on getting an article on website!!

    Also there is a nice little mention of tennis-prose at the end…! Cool!

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Apparently, Ovechkin was partying with other girls and Kirilenko saw the photos. Kirilenko not impressed by Ovechkin’s immaturity.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Thank you Gaurang.

  • JG · July 22, 2014 at 10:31 am

    The women’s field for the Citi Open is surprisingly good as well, Bouchard is playing. Scoop (and maybe Dan) let me know when u are in town and we can set something up. I should be at the Qualies (Tiafoe won a local wildcard tournament to get a wild card to the Qualies)

  • Andrew Miller · July 22, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Dan kirilenko is quality and seems to be more like safarova in her avoidance of steps. Some players dont fall for the radek spell!

  • Dan Markowitz · July 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t believe that, Andrew, for a second. It’s impossible to not fall under the Radek spell, as you phrase it. If you really take a good look at Steppy and peruse the lips, the eyes, the greasy hair and the jaw, the hairy legs and energizer bunny body, you find yourself not only slipping under the Radek Spell, but enthralled with the fact that you’re swooning. Within a week I expect to hear Kirilenko is engaged to Steppy and Safarova is on the Waiting List for when that engagement inevitably breaks up.

  • Andrew Miller · July 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Dan the steps is a wizard. No doubt.

  • Andrew Miller · July 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Tiafoe lost his qualies second rder

  • Harold · July 22, 2014 at 7:21 pm

  • bjk · July 22, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Tim Smyzcaerek goes into GOAT mode, crushes Harrison 0-2. Or else there’s something wrong with Harrison.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Rock bottom for Ryan Harrison. He suffered the crushing defeat to Hewitt in Newport, now this brutal beating to Tiger Tim. He may need to take some time off. But he can’t afford to as his ranking is around l50. Guy just can’t win matches.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 23, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Great find, Harold. I like Dylan’s tennis shoes.

  • Coach Skelly · July 23, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Go Estrella!!!!”Great acts take time.!”

  • Andrew Miller · July 23, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Harrison will be fine . Give Gambill time, he has a good approach to tge sport and no one remembers atlanta come cincinatti .

  • Dan Markowitz · July 23, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Harry’s toast. There’s just a way he’s filled out–too much–when he was young he looked quick and lithe, now he looks blocky and not so quick. Plus, he’s got anger management issues, not good. He could pull a minor Murray, but it’s going to take a lot more than Gambill, me thinks. Harry and DY are toast as far as being top players.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 23, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Basically, the only young American I’ve seen who has a shot is Sock, and I wouldn’t give him much of a chance of ever reaching a slam semis.

  • Andrew Miller · July 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Dc will be hot. Bring h2o.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    DC is so hot they wait until 4 to start the matches.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 23, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Geez, it’s been low-90’s in the burbs of New York this week. DC could be brutal.

  • JG · July 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I could be wrong but someone told me this year they were starting at 2 to accommodate the larger women’s draw, it was brutal when they started at 12.

  • bjk · July 23, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Not that the ATP officials are asking for my opinion, but I like the women/men every other year format like in Montreal/Toronto. There are some new faces this year, but for a few years there it was the same Roddick/Blake/Isner/Berdych lineup that we got the year before. Adding the women is good, but spreading tennis around to Chicago, Boston, LA, Phoenix etc would be better. Def looking forward to Citi open this year.

  • Andrew Miller · July 24, 2014 at 1:51 am

    Vaidisova inching towards a comeback…

  • Jack · July 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Rafa announces to the world, that he has found the missing “grip change” that gave him a 120 mph serve at the 2010 USO, and will use it at the 2014 USO.

    He served between 110 and 113 mph at Wimbledon this year. If his serve jumps to 120 mph for the USO final, he will again be brazenly pushing the our noses in it.

    IGF1 injections a couple of months ahead of time plus in-competition testosterone-patch use would add about 10 mph to a serve (I believe this is what Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens used to keep their “stuff” into their 40s, during baseball’s “steroids era”). The “pitch” and the “serve” have similar motions (as any tennis instructor will tell you).

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Heard these rumors before Andrew, asked her agent in Miami if it was true and he said no. But she is too young to waste away, too much talent. Hope she does try to comeback.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    LOL at missing grip change. That might be almost as preposterous as when Roy Jones tried to tell us he lost the third fight to Antonio Tarver on purpose to spite his father. “Missing grip change” he cannot be serious can be?

  • Jack · July 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Ask Mac about Rafa coming into the booth during the 2010 USO to show the world his new “grip” that added 10 mph to his serve. Apparently he has now tweeted a picture of this new serve (according to the above article).



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