March 5th, 2024

Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo lifts Canada past South Korea in Davis Cup qualifier

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on February 3, 2024.

Gabriel Diallo of Canada hits a return to Hong Seongchan of South Korea during the Davis Cup tennis qualifiers in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo pushed Canada into the Davis Cup Finals group stage on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Diallo defeated Seongchan Hong 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 to give Canada a 3-1 victory over South Korea in the best-of-five qualifier in front of 1,925 fans inside IGA Stadium.

The six-foot-eight Diallo dominated with 36 winners to 12, but nearly beat himself with a whopping 64 unforced errors, accounting for the vast majority of the five-foot-nine Hong’s 84 total points. Diallo, meanwhile, won 105.

The hometown favourite – who ranks No. 132 on the ATP Tour – got Canada started Friday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Soonwoo Kwon to open the tie.

Canada returns to action for the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in September at a to-be-determined location. The Finals are scheduled for November in Malaga, Spain.

Earlier Saturday, Jisung Nam and Minkyu Song edged Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in a must-win doubles match to keep South Korea alive.

Second-ranked Canada took a commanding 2-0 lead over No. 18 South Korea on Friday as Pospisil defeated Hong 6-4, 6-3 in singles after Diallo’s opening win.

A fifth match between Pospisil and Kwon scheduled for later Saturday was not necessary.

Diallo went up a break early in the third set to take a 3-1 lead. He then broke Hong once more while holding serve to leave little doubt in the result.

In the first set, he dominated and won 81 per cent of his service points, but his rash of unforced errors kept Hong in the match.

Hong fended off Diallo’s first three breakpoint opportunities with solid defence – including a perfectly placed lob over his opponent and into the backcourt while down 4-3.

The Montreal athlete finally broke through on set point with an emphatic forehand winner down the line before letting out an emotional cheer.

He carried that momentum into the second set, converting on a third breakpoint opportunity to go up 2-0, but Hong broke right back after Diallo completely mis-hit a half-volley at the net.

Tied 4-4, Hong earned a double breakpoint with another quality lob and converted on his second chance to take the advantage before serving for the set. Diallo earned two break chances in the ensuing game, but committed errors on both.

In doubles, the South Koreans held all 16 of their service games en route to victory. Canada put just 60 per cent of its first serves in play and committed 41 unforced errors to South Korea’s 31.

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

“Maybe that would have made the difference.”

Up 1-0 in the third set, South Korea converted on its third breakpoint opportunity to go up 2-0.

Canada earned its first – and only – breakpoint chance in the ensuing game but the South Koreans fended it off with ease, forcing a deuce before winning the frame.

Song, who gave the Canadians trouble with his serve all afternoon, won the match with an ace.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2024.

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