Monday, February 26, 2024

Tennis: Montrealer Gabriel Diallo vaults Canada to next stage of Davis Cup

Defeats South Korea’s Hong Seong-chan 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 to give Canada a 3-1 victory in the best-of-five competition on Saturday in Montreal.

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Montrealer Gabriel Diallo survived an error-laden performance to lead Canada into the next stage of Davis Cup competition on Saturday.

Diallo defeated South Korea’s Hong Seong-chan 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 to give Canada a 3-1 victory in the best-of-five competition.

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The win advanced Canada to the 16-nation round-robin stage of the competition, Sept. 10-15, along with 11 other qualifiers, including the United States, Germany and Brazil, defending champion Italy, runner-up Australia and wild cards Spain and Britain. A draw will be held later this month to determine which teams Canada will face and where.

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The 6-foot-8 Diallo, who opened the tie Friday with a straight-set win over Kwon Soon-woo, said he tried to play his usual aggressive game, but he kept Hong in the match with repeated mistakes. Hong won 84 points in the match and 64 of them were the result of unforced errors by Diallo.

Despite the errors, it appeared the Canadian was going to cruise to another straight-set victory when he broke Hong to win the opening set 7-5 and then broke the Korean to take a 2-0 lead in the second  set.

But Hong broke back immediately and then took advantage of three unforced errors for another break and a 5-4 lead.

The third set was all about holding serve as Diallo reeled off five straight games, breaking Hong in the fourth and sixth games.

“I gave myself a pep talk,” Diallo said of his turnaround. “I play my best when I’m aggressive.

“It was physical, I wasn’t missing much in the first set and a half, then I lost my level a little bit,” Diallo said. “In the third set, I started playing much more aggressive and the rallies were much shorter, which suits me better, and I think that’s why I got the job done today.

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“Thank you to all the guys (on the team) that have so much experience, they made my job so much easier,” said the 22-year-old who recently completed his first full year on the pro tour. “They get me right before, they get me right during the match even when things aren’t looking great, they keep me calm and composed.”

South Korea, which rallied from an 0-2 deficit to beat Belgium in a qualifying match last year, had hopes of repeating that feat when they won the opening doubles match Saturday.

Song Min-kyu and Nam Ji-sung held serve throughout the match and allowed the Canadians only one break point opportunity as they defeated Vasek Pospisil and Alexis Galarneau 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3.

“They served really well, we didn’t get many opportunities,” said Galarneau, who was playing his first competitive match this year after dealing with an injury. “They’re doubles specialists so we were expecting them to play a good match, and (there were) small details on my end personally that I know I could have been a little bit sharper on.”

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