Hugo Dellien Showcases High Tennis IQ and Fitness In Montevideo Triumph

Hugo Dellien Madrid
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For the seventh time in Hugo Dellien’s career, he was a champion on the ATP Challenger Tour. This time, he lifted the winner’s trophy at the Montevideo Challenger, a tail-end of the season clay-court Challenger in the capitol of Uruguay.

For clay-court specialists like Dellien, Montevideo represented an opportunity to squeeze the final bits of juice out of the season before offseason training (and vacations) begin shortly

The Bolivian wasnt at his best for large portions of the week. He struggled to rein in his groundstrokes against a scrappy Timofey Skatov in the second round. And in the semifinals against Federico Coria, his forehand went AWOL for large portions of the match.

Yet, Hugo Dellien found a way to maneuver his way through those matches and eventually take the title in a blowout over Juan Ignacio Londero, 6-0, 6-1.

This moved Dellien up to World No. 120 in the live rankings, and while he’s still far out from his best ranking of World No. 72, he’s approaching the top 100 once again.

Over the course of the 5 matches this past week (including a Bagnis retirement in the quarterfinals), Dellien broke serve 26 times! Bagnis, at 61% first-serves won, was the most effective on his first serve all week, as none of Dellien’s other opponents were able to win over 60% of theirĀ firstĀ serves.

Dellien possesses an average, although well-placed serve, a heavy forehand and solid backhand. His net play won’t see him compared to Federer, but he’s good enough when venturing forward. Certainly nothing stands out about Dellien’s game as particularly spectacular.

This week showcased to the tennis world that, once again, you don’t need a huge serve or rocket groundstrokes to succeed on the Challenger Tour, especially on clay.

There’s two main reasons why Dellien won the title this week, and why he’s won six Challengers before this: tennis IQ and fitness.

Let’s start with tennis IQ. Hugo Dellien’s point construction, patience, and ability to take advantage of openings are among the best you’ll see on the ATP Challenger Tour. The Bolivian moves the ball around the court with such easy, hitting his heavy forehand deep in the court and with remarkable placement, causing his opponents a lot of energy running after his shots, not that the extreme topspin he puts on the ball is easy to deal with if layers can even get a racquet on his groundstrokes.

Dellien causes his opponents to fatigue not because he’s hitting the ball (relatively) hard, but because of his placement and knowledge of how to build a point. While Dellien does commit some unforced errors, like all players, his often come after he’s spent the whole point patiently waiting for his moment to pull the trigger into an opening.

The second reason is Dellien is one of the fittest players you’ll find on the ATP Challenger Tour, which was on full-display in Montevideo this week. In both of Dellien’s three-setters this week, against Skatov and Coria, Dellien was clearly in better physical shape when the third sets rolled around. And that’s been a theme all season for the Bolivian, the longer the match, the harder it ws to beat this guy.

Johan Nikles learned that during Dellien’s run to his other 2021-Challenger title in Lima. During their semifinal encounter, Nikles won the first set 7-6(5) in an hour and 15 minutes. When Dellien took the second set 6-4, over two hours were on the clock and Nikles was out of steam physically. Dellien comfortably took the third set 6-2.

After both that semifinal and the semifinal this week against Coria, the long length of those matches didn’t affect Dellien’s form in either of the finals. In the Lima final against Camilo Ugo Carabelli and in the Montevideo final against Londero, Dellien took the final in straight sets, showing little signs of the wars previously fought.

It’s, perhaps, precisely because of the fact that these are the main components of Dellien’s game that, while he’s experienced plenty of success at the Challenger level, he hasn’t made it past the second round of a Slam or Masters 1000 event, nor has he made the final of any ATP Tour event.

ATP Tour-level players can turn the tables more easily on Dellien’s point construction and can force him out of his comfort zone directing from the baseline. These players can also take better advantage of Dellien’s serve, which doesn’t cut through the court like other players’ serves of similar ranking.

It’s worth noting that Hugo Dellien’s game hasn’t exactly evolved from when he initially made his breakthrough at the Challenger level in the summer of 2018. That summer saw him win the first three Challenger titles of his career in Sarasota, Savannah, and Vicenza. Dellien won those titles using his fitness, heavy forehand, and ability to place shots well.

And while Dellien’s point construction and ability to ramp up the aggression on his groundstrokes have marginally improved, there’s a reason why he’s still grinding it out on the Challenger Tour and didn’t make it full-time on the ATP Tour. Despite having that career high of World No. 72 in January 2020, he couldn’t make it at the highest level of the game.

But, that’s not to diminish Dellien’s Challenger successes. At that level, Dellien is a stepping-stone for many aspiring clay-courters, like Skatov this week, to go through on their quest to the ATP Tour. Want to make it to the big leagues? Go through a brick wall that’s sending balls back with so much spin, it feels like the ball is a yellow blur.

And perhaps that’s the lesson of all of this: Not everyone is going to be an ATP Tour superstar. Perhaps fans need to accept players more for who they are, as opposed to projecting our expectations onto the players. Maybe we should look more at why players even got the point of playing professionally, as opposed to pontificating they haven’t risen higher in the rankings.

Dellien is a great Challenger-Tour player. His game is fun to watch, aesthetically pleasing, and he has an extremely high tennis IQ. He’s a fighter, making opponents earn everything against him. And he’s had a good career from those attributes.

This week was no different for Dellien. Utilizing his fitness and high tennis IQ, he was able to flummox opponents and sift his way to a seventh Challenger title.

Hugo Dellien should be proud of the tennis he displayed this past week in Montevideo.

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