October 2, 2022

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU EVER NEEDED

Gabriel Diallo’s rock-star moment in Montreal

When you’re a kid just starting out – playing a big tournament in your hometown in front of friends and family – the pressure you put on yourself must be enormous.

But those are also moments when upsets happen. You need only to look at Tim Van Rijthoven’s run to the title at home in the Netherlands, as a wild card, on grass earlier this summer.

And they occasionally happen in Montreal. It happened Saturday for Gabriel Diallo.

The 20-year-old, ranked No. 665 and playing college tennis full-time at the University of Kentucky, received a wild card into the qualifying at the Omnium Banque Nationale.

He made good, upsetting the VERY solid and experienced James Duckworth, ranked No. 59, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on the Court Rogers Saturday.

Here’s what it looked like.

Diallo is a Montreal native who actually relocated to Quebec City to work with Félix Auger-Aliassime’s father, coach Sam Aliassime.

He has little professional experience; but his win at a $25K ITF in Michigan earlier this summer moved him from outside No. 943 in the rankings up to No. 675.

Sunday, he faced a completely different matchup in tricky French lefty Hugo Gaston.

And reality set in, as Diallo retired down 2-6, 1-2 due to injury.

Duckworth didn’t take it well

For Duckworth, generally a pretty stolid sort, the defeat at the hands of the kid was worth the ABSOLUTELY crushing of several rackets.

He made one kid’s day, though.

Flashbacks to Milos Raonic – 2009

There was another young, big-serving kid who made his mark long ago in Montreal.

It wasn’t quite the same situation. But Milos Raonic, then just 18 and ranked No. 679 (almost exactly the same as Diallo this week), had an impressive run through the qualifying.

He defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili (then No. 77). And then he took care of Michael Llodra (No. 113 at the time) to qualify for the main draw.

He got the rock-star treatment on his way out of the stadium, too.

There, he squared off against world No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez in the first round of the main draw, in his ATP Tour-level debut.

It was on the same court Diallo owned Saturday, too, the Grandstand, in a night match.

There’s actually a YouTube of it.

The place was full and Gonzalez was being driven to drink by the very loud, very pro-Raonic crowd.

And the kid nearly pulled it off. Maybe he should have. In the end, he was beaten 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 by the experienced Gonzalez.

But his career was launched. Raonic immediately left for a three-tournament tour of Thailand on the ITF circuit, during which he went 12-2 with one title and a final.

He came home ranked in the top 400.