– School: Florida
– Year Graduated: 2016
– Current Job: ATP Player (#262 doubles)
Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in April 18th of 1993, Diego is one of the top names in a great generation of Ecuadorian tennis players. Diego was ranked as the 16th best junior tennis player in the world, which gave him the opportunity to attend a great school – University of Florida. There, Diego played mostly at the #1 position, finishing his senior year ranked as the #13 best college player in singles and #3 in doubles. He received the 2016 SEC Player of the Year award and was an All-American in both singles and doubles.
In the Pro Tour, Diego has won 15 future doubles tournaments and 2 singles. He is currently ranked #262 in the world in doubles and #366 in singles. Most recently, Diego paired up with Gonzalo Escobar for the Davis Cup tie between Ecuador and Japan, winning the doubles match and securing a spot for Ecuador in the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.
Most importantly, I’ve known Diego for quite some time and he’s a terrific human being. He’s got an incredible work ethic and has a great attitude in general, which I’m sure has played a role in the success he’s had thus far. There’s a lot to learn from what he shared with us below, so we hope you enjoy!
7 Questions With Diego Hidalgo
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
I committed 3 months before going to school, at the time I was trying to make it in the pro tour but I got injured and I started researching for the best school for me. I was contacted by many schools through Facebook since I was playing juniors (2-3 years prior to going to school) but it got more serious with The University of Texas, UVA, Baylor, and Florida. The first 3 contacted me through Facebook, but my father started looking for a program that had a good coaching staff, good academic school, but also a team where I could play high in the line-up. He came up with Florida and we thought it was the best fit for me. It seemed a serious program that was preparing students to go pro after college and focusing on growing as a person and student as well. That was exactly what we were looking for.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
I think the competition in college and the team unity are things I will always remember and smile. I remember the time we won the conference championship (SEC) against Georgia, our biggest rival in the SEC. I lost my singles playing #1, but we ended up winning the tie. At the bus back to Gainesville we were all celebrating very happy but then we all started singing Spanish songs (I was the only foreigner in the team) and my teammates and I started all hugging and crying from joy. It was a great moment that I will never forget. Before going to college I would have never thought I was going to be that involved in a tennis team.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
College tennis made me grow as a tennis player but most importantly as a person. I believe I matured a lot off the court and that has helped me mature on court. Also, it helped me learn how to be a good teammate and to play tennis as a team sport which I had never done before. I think that is the answer why Ecuador now is going to the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid and we are all former college players. I’m playing pro tennis now, and I am enjoying it a lot. It was tough for me at the beginning, a couple of injuries, bad results, struggling with money, etc… But I have surpassed that barrier and now I can enjoy a little more. I believe patience has been the key. Learning that everything takes time.
#4) A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?
I believe college tennis is the best route a junior player can take if he wants to be a good pro. The competition is tougher than in Futures, it has all the infrastructure you need to get stronger and better, it teaches you how to manage your time wisely, how to live on your own and being responsible, and so many other things. The best part is that college tennis is getting better and better each year, you can see that in the results of the players that went to college and are now playing pro.
#5) Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids’ tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?
I believe it is very important to know what your priorities are. There are going to be three main things: tennis, school and partying, but you can only do well two of those, so you have to choose. In my case, tennis was and is my priority, then I put the hours I needed to put in school, and then I also had time to see my friends and have a social life. I had to be smart and know when I had time to party and when I had to stay home resting or studying, but that’s one thing you learn.
#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
First, I wouldn’t try to play a year of pro tennis, I would go straight from juniors, that way I could finish earlier and start playing pro tennis earlier after graduating. Like I mentioned before, I would try to be more flexible with those three main things but always knowing that my priorities are tennis and school, but not canceling my social life. It’s needed.
#7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
I helped me grow as a tennis player. I got stronger physically, stronger mentally and better in my game. I was lucky to have Brian Shelton, Mark Merklein and Scott Perealman as coaches, and that’s one very important thing when you are deciding, coaches that are going to help you grow, not just win as a team. I learned from them that tennis is just a part of my life, but most importantly I am a person, and I have to be respectful, humble, and thankful for what I have and have had. I also learned how to manage my time and be responsible with it, and most importantly I made friends and connections that are going to stay with me forever.