Canadian Steven Diez one and done in Oz (pics)

MELBOURNE – When the face you see above became the norm for little-known Canadian Steven Diez Wednesday in the Australian Open qualifying, he was actually UP 4-3 in the third set of his first-round match.

The 25-year-old faced Yannik Reuter of Belgium, a player ranked No. 209 to his No. 168, and so was the favourite on paper. As with Pospisil, Diez was playing an opponent almost exactly the same age; Reuter was born March 6, 1991; Diez 11 days later).

After a slowish start, it was turning into a pretty good baseline battle. But when Diez was up 4-3 in the third set, on serve, having battled back to deuce after Reuter led 40-15, his attitude suddenly turned awfully negative – almost mournful.  If he made errors in that game, the worst-case scenario was that Reuter would hold serve and it would be 4-4. But he started to beat himself up mentally.

Unfortunately, that negativity persisted through the next two games; Diez was broken – it almost seemed inevitable – and Reuter served it out to advance.

Here’s what it looked like.

Diez had an impressive season in 2016, definitely under the Canadian radar. He began it ranked No. 384 and playing Futures events and by the end, with some good performances at the Challenger level and some dips into the ATP Tour waters, he reached his career-best ranking of No. 162 in mid-December.

The wild card defeated Brit Kyle Edmund (then ranked No. 84) in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto before losing to Bernard Tomic in a competitive match. He also qualified at two ATP Tour events.

Diez played the qualifying at all four majors in 2013, and three of the four in 2014. But he didn’t get back to that level until Wimbledon 2016. He lost in the final round of the US Open qualifying to American Christian Harrison.

This time, he didn’t give himself the best opportunity. The game seems to be coming along; hopefully the belief follows.

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