Most third-round losers in the U.S. Open are footnotes. Victor Estrella Burgos -- as some might have guessed by translating his surname, Estrella, into English -- is a star.
Not an overnight success, at 34. But Estrella's appearance in this year's tournament made him the first player from the Dominican Republic ever to play in the Open. His match against fifth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada Saturday was Estrella's first, in his 12-year professional career, against a top 10 player.
Estrella lost a tight, entertaining match after pushing Raonic to a tiebreak in all three sets -- 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). But his presence brought hundreds of Dominican fans to watch a sport almost nobody plays in Estrella's land.
And his unlikely progress through two rounds, as the world's 80th-ranked player, threw a bright light on his unique personal story.
Hired as a ball boy at a Santiago country club when he was 8, Estrella taught himself tennis. He was 18 years old before he ever heard of the U.S. Open, and labored for all these years in the tennis minor leagues. For years, his ranking wasn't much higher than 1,500.
But, after an elbow injury almost ended his career in 2012, Estrella began his climb toward finally playing on the big stage. Last year, he lost to American Donald Young in the final round of the Open's qualifying tournament.
This year, at last ranked in the top 100, he earned a berth in the French Open's main draw, where he lost to then-No. 23 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in the first round. He then was beaten in Wimbledon's first round by then-No. 68 Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.
Here at Flushing Meadows, he knocked off Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands, ranked 72nd, then beat Croatia's Borna Coric, a 17-year-old with big possibilities, while Dominican fans cheered. And more.
"I have, like, a thousand coaches," Estrella said, "because all of them, they are coaching me."
Saturday, Estrella showed no fear in dueling Raonic, nine inches taller than the 5-8 Estrella and with a serve 15 mph faster than Estrella's high of 126. The Grandstand court crowd howled in appreciation of the duel from all 6,106 seats, from the walkway between the Grandstand and Armstrong Stadium, even looking over from the top row of Armstrong. Many called out Estrella's nickname, "Viti."
"Really amazing," Estrella said. "Sometime I see out of the court a lot of faces that I know, because I know a lot of people from Dominican. It was an amazing feeling.
"For me, the best week. I lost today, but today was my best match. I played very good level. The three sets was very close. I'm not too sad, because I have had a very good week."
Only two players were older than him in the 128-player men's singles draw, but he talked like a fellow just setting out on his career path. He will spend his $105,000 winnings here to "invest in my career," he said.
"And I have to pay taxes."