Victor Estrella Burgos is 15-0 with three consecutive titles at the Quito Open. For any top-ten player, that would be quite a difficult task. For Estrella Burgos, a journeyman who bounces between 100 and the mid-50s, it’s borderline impossible.
And yet, somehow, it has happened. On his way to his only three ATP titles, he has upset two top-20 players, won three third-set tiebreaks, and won all 15 matches he’s played in Quito over the past three years. It’s one of the most unlikely sports streaks you’ll ever see.
Quito is 2800m above sea-level, and the altitude makes the ball travel faster and Estrella Burgos’ game reach absurd levels. Estrella is good on clay courts as it is, but Quito’s quick conditions play perfectly for his aggressive game. But it still makes absolutely no sense that Estrella has won 15 consecutive matches in three years.
Estrella Burgos even won a Challenger title in Quito during 2013. Somehow, he failed to win in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, but his record stands for itself. Of the 30 matches he’s played in Quito, Estrella Burgos has won 25. It makes zero sense. He’s made ridiculous comebacks and played the best tiebreaks of his entire career in Quito.
Take, for example, his most recent triumph against No. 37 Paolo Lorenzi. Lorenzi, another aging 35+ journeyman who is a legend on the ATP Challenger circuit, was up a set and a break in the second. Estrella Burgos fought back to win 7-5, and then he staved off a match point in the third set tiebreak to win.
To get to that point, Estrella Burgos had to defeat No. 18 Ivo Karlovic in back-to-back tiebreakers. Karlovic, arguably one of the greatest servers of all time, was 47-25 in breakers over the past 52 weeks. Estrella Burgos saved a match point on Karlovic’s serve (remember, Karlovic serves an ace 24.7 percent of the time) and came through to win 10-8. It’s absolutely crazy.
But it wasn’t just 2017. In 2016 in the final against Thomaz Bellucci, Estrella came back from a set down by winning a second set tiebreaker 7-5. His win probability dropped to as low as 12.4 percent in that match. In 2015 against then No. 14 Feliciano Lopez, Estrella Burgos won in another dramatic third set tiebreaker.
The types of players who win the same event three years in a row on the Tour are nothing like Victor Estrella Burgos. Novak Djokovic does this. Rafael Nadal does this. Federer does this. Anyone else is bound to get tripped up by randomness (yes, even Andy Murray). He’s the only player in ATP history to win three titles in the same place and have zero titles anywhere else. The probability of Estrella Burgos winning all 15 of his matches (using bookmaker odds, and assuming every match was independent) was probably somewhere near one in 100,000. Now, clearly the odds couldn’t have been that stacked against Estrella, but somehow it all happened.
Estrella Burgos is also 36 years old and didn’t start playing tennis until he was 26 because he didn’t have enough money to support himself through the lower ranks. Playing professional tennis was his childhood dream. He worked for years just for the chance to represent the non-existent tennis nation of the Dominican Republic on the world stage. His win in 2015 made him the oldest first-time ATP Tour title winner. Fittingly, his record was surpassed in 2016 by his opponent last Sunday, Paolo Lorenzi, who will be getting a blog post of his own someday.
Estrella Burgos’ decision paid off. He has over $1.7 million in prize money. After he retires, he intends to start a tennis academy in the Dominican Republic so that the country can someday produce more professional tennis players.
Don’t let your dreams be dreams, I suppose.