Monday, February 26, 2024

Tennis: Canada sweeps opening Davis Cup singles against South Korea

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Canada is only one win away from advancing to the Davis Cup World Group round-robin in September after sweeping the opening singles against South Korea on Friday at the National Tennis Centre at Jarry Park.

Montrealer Gabriel Diallo opened the best-of-five series with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kwon Soon-woo and Vasek Pospisil defeated Hong Seong-chan 6-4, 6-3.

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The sweep means Canada must win only one of three matches Saturday to return to the 16-nation round-robin stage for the third consecutive year.

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Pospisil and Laval’s Alexis Galarneau will kick off Saturday’s schedule at 2 p.m. with a doubles match against Nam Ji-sung and Song Min-kyu. That will be followed by two singles matches Diallo is scheduled to play and Pospsil is to play Kwon, but there could be substitutions if the tie is decided.

Diallo’s victory was crucial because Kwon was the wild card in this tie. His ranking dropped to No. 700 after a shoulder injury sidelined him for six months last year, but when Canada faced Korea in 2022, Kwon upset Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime.

Diallo was down a service break in each set, but broke back immediately and then broke Kwon at 5-4 in each set.

In the opening set, Kwon broke for a 3-2 lead, but he double-faulted twice in the following game to let Diallo back into the set. Kwon won only one point in the 10th game to hand Diallo the set.

Kwon took a 4-3 lead in the second set after Diallo served his first double-fault on break point. Diallo drew even In the next game, battling back from a 40-15 deficit and winning on his fourth break point opportunity. Kwon again took a 40-15 lead in the 10th game, but Diallo reeled off four consecutive points, winning the match when Kwon hit a forehand long.

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“I stayed composed after he broke me because my ground strokes were solid and I had some looks on his serve,” Diallo said. “I think he let his guard down after he broke me.

“In the second set, I knew that I had come back in the first set and I was confident I could do it again. I just had to keep being aggressive and concentrate on returning his serve.”

Diallo said he was on familiar territory and was buoyed by a near-sellout crowd of 2,082.

“It’s always a privilege to represent Canada, especially here in my neighbourhood,” Diallo said. ”My home was seven minutes from here and I played on these courts when I was growing up.”

“I played OK, but I couldn’t take advantage after I got the first breaks,” Kwon said. “My game plan is to get the early break but, once I got it, I started to think too much.”

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