Dellien Celebrates Historic Title For Bolivia
It was a seminal moment for Hugo Dellien. And one that was just as groundbreaking for his native Bolivia.
On Sunday, the 24-year-old from Trinidad, Bolivia, celebrated a historic victory in clinching his first ATP Challenger Tour title. In front of a packed crowd in Sarasota, Florida, a dogged Dellien rallied from a set down to lift the trophy, defeating Argentine veteran Facundo Bagnis 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 58 minutes.
As Dellien fired a backhand down the line and collapsed to the green clay, his hands covering his face as emotions from years of hard work boiled over, it was clear that this wasn't an ordinary victory.
"I am so happy, because I know that Bolivia does not have a top-level athlete in the world," Dellien told ATPWorldTour.com. "I hope that I can motivate others to believe that they too can find this path in sports. Now, I am just taking it week by week and it's very emotional for me, because this is my dream. I am so happy right now."
With a population of more than 10 million, Bolivia is the eighth-largest country in South America. Its diverse culture is rich in cuisine, art, music and dance, with strong influences from its indigenous people. But, the nation remains in search of a sporting icon; someone to put the developing country on the map on a global scale. Bolivia has been represented at 20 different Olympic Games, but it has yet to win a medal. Its football team has appeared in three World Cups, but only once since 1950.
Now, the nation has a tennis champion to celebrate. With his triumph in Sarasota, Dellien became just the second Bolivian-born player to claim victory on the ATP Challenger Tour. The win comes nearly 35 years after Mario Martinez lifted the trophy in Messina, Italy. And the celebration has already begun.
Following Dellien's victory, Bolivian President Evo Morales released the following message on his official Twitter account...
Congratulations to our brother Hugo Dellien, No. 1 in Bolivian tennis, for winning your first ATP singles title at the Challenger tournament in Sarasota. We are very proud of you for taking Bolivia to new heights in international tennis.
Felicitar al hermano Hugo Dellien, número uno del tenis boliviano, por su primer título individual en el circuito de la Asociación de Tenistas Profesionales (ATP), en el torneo Challenger de Sarasota. Por llevar a Bolivia tan alto en el tenis internacional, estamos muy orgullosos pic.twitter.com/eExKdojHVX— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) April 23, 2018
As the news spread throughout the region, Latin America's ESPN picked up the story, reporting Dellien's hallmark victory on SportsCenter.
For Dellien, the victory was particularly bittersweet, considering it had been four years since he reached his first Challenger final, in Montevideo in 2014. That is, four years of battling on the circuit to realise his dreams. After blasting #NextGenATP star Michael Mmoh in straight sets, saving a match point in a quarter-final win over Stefan Kozlov, ousting an in-form Juan Ignacio Londero in the semis and overcoming Bagnis in the championship, that moment has arrived.
With the win, Dellien rises 59 spots in the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 172. The 24-year-old is looking to join Martinez as the only Bolivians to crack the Top 100, with his countryman peaking at World No. 35 after his victory in Messina in 1983.
Dellien will continue his charge up the ATP Rankings at ATP Challenger Tour stops in Tallahassee and Savannah, before traveling to Europe to prepare for Roland Garros qualifying.