NEW YORK (AP) — Victor Estrella Burgos is 34, and Borna Coric is 17, making for the largest gap between male opponents in U.S. Open history — and the ol' guy won.
And their ages weren't the only discrepancy Thursday: The 5-foot-8 Estrella Burgos had to stretch his arms when he reached up to console the 6-foot-1 Coric at the net after winning 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to get to the third round at Flushing Meadows.
"Age is just a number," said the 80th-ranked Estrella Burgos, the first player from the Dominican Republic to reach the ATP's top 100. "For me, it never is a factor. I knew about his age, and that I was playing someone who has a bright future ahead of him, but I never thought that I have to beat him because he was younger than me or that he will just fail by just being younger."
Two days after playing on Court 6 and earning his first victory in a Grand Slam match by defeating Igor Sisling of the Netherlands, Estrella Burgos returned to the same spot and heard the same sort of overwhelming support from the capacity crowd of 1,148.
Their nonstop singing of "Victor, Victor" was not a surprise, considering the large Dominican population living in New York and those who came from that country to watch their man play.
Joking about his euphoric countrymen, Estrella Burgos said: "There were 1,000 Dominicans — and also 1,000 coaches."
"They were yelling me all the time, 'Just serve to the T' and 'Keep slicing,'" Estrella Burgos said. "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."
Estrella Burgos turned professional in 2002, but he abandoned the sport after struggling to get the financial resources to play on tour.
He came back in 2006 and then contemplated another retirement when he injured his elbow in 2012.
"It wasn't until three years ago that I started to do things right focusing on my fitness," Estrella Burgos said after beating Coric, a Croatian who won the U.S. Open junior title last year and went through qualifying rounds to get into the main draw this year, then beat 29th-seeded Lukas Rosol in the first round.
"I can play against anyone with top-quality tennis," Estrella Burgos said, "but being in shape is the key to sticking on the tour for several more years."
Now things figure to get tougher.
Estrella Burgos' next match will be against fifth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. Back in 2010, Estrella Burgos lost a five-set match to Raonic in a Davis Cup playoff, their only previous meeting.
"Raonic is now a much different player; he's in another level," Estrella Burgos said. "But I'm not the same Victor of four years ago."
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