The King of Quito Falls for the First Time

Victor Estrella Burgos quietly accomplished an impressive feat few players ever accomplish by winning a tournament three years in a row.

Roberto Carballés Baena, by winning the title Sunday afternoon at the Ecuador Open, marked the first time in the tournament’s four-year history that a player not named Victor Estrella Burgos was crowned champion. Estrella Burgos’ three titles in a row in the event have lead him to be known as “The King of Quito.” His run was made even more impressive by the fact that he has not won an ATP Tour title in any other tournament. He is currently the only tennis player in history with three or more tournament titles at one tournament without a title anywhere else. Estrella Burgos is also unique on the tour as he and Ivo Karlovic are the only two players in the top 100 older than Roger Federer. He is from the Dominican Republic, and has set several tennis records including being the first Dominican to achieve a top 100 ranking and to play in all four Grand Slams.

His lack of money growing up led him to be a late bloomer on the ATP tour. He was only able to play about six tournaments a year from ages 18 to 26 due to a lack of finances and resources. He first had success in doubles in Futures and Challenges but that soon translated to singles. It was still not an easy road for Estrella Burgos, as he did not crack the top 100 until 2014 at age 33. Once he reached that milestone, he showed no signs of slowing down. Fighting for every match, he began to succeed at the top level and eventually cracked the top 50. He flew up the rankings largely due to his success in Quito.

First Ecuador Open

The inaugural Ecuador Open yielded a fairly strong field for a 250 event. It is helped by its scheduling early in the season. With hard-court Masters 1000 events such as Indian Wells and Miami still to come, most players are focused on hard courts. However, the early clay court event helps players who are most comfortable on clay gain additional points and preparation for the spring and summer clay court swing. The draw had four top-40 players with Estrella Burgos sitting at the eight seed. At 34 years old and with no tournament titles in his career, the 5’7” unassuming Estrella Burgos was mostly an afterthought.

Estrella Burgos proved everyone wrong and breezed to the final, winning his four matches without dropping a single set. That set up a battle with world #14 at the time Feliciano Lopez. The difficult opponent did not phase Estrella Burgos at all, and he battled to a tight three set victory. He fell to the clay after Lopez’s final shot flew long, overcome with emotion. The celebration looked similar to that of many major winners, showing just how much this triumph meant to Estrella Burgos and a symbol of the long road that had culminated in an ATP title.

Back to Back Title Defenses

Estrella Burgos was given the fifth seed in 2016 in his quest to defend his only title. He had a strikingly similar tournament, breezing to the final while dropping only one set. In the final he played Thomaz Bellucci, who at the time was ranked higher than him. In another battle, Estrella Burgos acme back from a set down and triumphed in three sets to win in Quito yet again to his disbelief.

After a difficult end of 2016, Estrella Burgos arrived in Quito ranked 156th in the world. As a two-time champion, he was on the radar of tennis fans (granted very few based on the tournament attendance), but again did not have high expectations. That year, Estrella Burgos did not come in seeded, setting him up with a second-round matchup with #1 seed Ivo Karlovic. He dropped the first set and saved three match points en route to a three tiebreak victory. He squeaked past Bellucci in two tiebreaks and took on Paolo Lorenzi in the final. In the final he dropped the first set and after equalizing found himself in a third-set tiebreak for the championship. After trading back and forth, Estrella Burgos saved a match point down 5-6. He then won the next two to clinch an improbable third title.

Going Forward

With a 15-0 record in three years in Quito, it was only fair that Estrella Burgos earned the title the “King of Quito”. This title was even endorsed by “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal after he told Estrella Burgos to go win the tournament again after their match at the Australian Open. Unfortunately, a four-peat was not in the cards, as he lost in the second round to Gerald Melzer after winning the first set.

Estrella Burgos’ incredible three years in Quito will hopefully be remembered, as his feat is remarkable. He overcame barriers of money, size, age, and experience to triumph on the top tour three years in a row. At age 37 he may not have much in the tank, but in 2017 he won a match in two different Grand Slams for the first time ever, so he may only be getting better with age. Estrella Burgos will hold his head high for his run in Quito and will maybe look to add one more title to his trophy case in 2019.

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