Tennis

Diallo caps off magical Granby run with first Challenger title

It is commonly said in both sports and life that you have to take your opportunities when they present themselves.

One such opportunity appeared for Gabriel Diallo and in Granby, and the 20-year-old Canadian was not throwing away his shot.

Diallo, a wildcard at the National Bank Championships, won the title on Sunday, defeating sixth seed Juncheng Shang in straight sets for his first title on the ATP Challenger Tour, the biggest victory of his career to date.

Coming into Granby, Diallo had never even reached the quarter-finals of an ATP Challenger event before and had a 1-4 record on the tour. He was also a point away from defeat in the second round against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, adding him to the list of players to win a title having been match-point down during the tournament.

The Canadian brought his A-game to the final, having one of his best days on serve putting 70 per cent of his first serves in play, winning 76 per cent of those points and pounding 10 aces. He also attacked Shang’s second serve, winning 63 per cent of those points.

As the first set went along, Diallo started to find a rhythm. He was pushed in his first two service games, saving a break point in the second, but only lost four more points on his own serve in the first set.

Diallo started applying more pressure to his opponent late in the first set and, after missing a break point at 4-all, struck at the perfect moment in the 11th game to score the first break of the match. He promptly held to love to take the opening set.

With the way the Canadian had been serving, it looked like he had one hand the trophy when he broke for a 4-3 lead in the second set. But Shang was not going away quietly, breaking right back to level the set.  

History seemed ready to repeat when, just like the opening set, Diallo broke in the 11th game. He had two match points on his serve at 6-5, 40-15, but could not convert and Shang broke back to send the set to a tiebreak.

At the end of a nervous breaker where neither player was able to pull away, the Canadian was not about to let his chance slip again. He reached a third match point, this time on Shang’s serve at 5-6, and converted for the biggest victory of his career so far.

Earlier in the week, Diallo stated in an interview that his goal for 2022 was to reach the top 500. With the win, the 20-year-old shattered that expectation, not only entering the Top 500, but jumping 136 spots up to a new career-high of No. 382 in the world.

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