Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne
Gabriel Diallo will have a shot to cap off a dream week in Granby on Sunday as he chases his first ATP Challenger title at the National Bank Championships.
The 20-year-old Canadian, who had never reached an ATP Challenger quarter-final prior to this week, advanced to the biggest final of his career to-date with a straight-sets win over ninth seed Hiroki Moriya on Saturday.
In the final, Diallo will meet sixth seed Juncheng Shang. The two finalists advanced with identical 6-3, 6-4 wins.
While he served well, putting 76 percent of his first serves in play, it was the return that made a difference for Diallo, as he won an impressive 48 percent of his opponent’s first serve points and 49 percent of Moriya’s overall service points.
Playing in the biggest match of his career to date, the Canadian showed little sign of nerves as he served well throughout the opening set. He applied early pressure to his opponent and was rewarded with a break in the fourth game.
Both players were shaky to start the second, exchanging breaks in the first two games. Diallo went ahead a break and led 4-2, only for Moriya to break back and level the set at 4-4.
But Diallo was not to be denied. He immediately reclaimed the break to set himself up to serve for a spot in the final and closed out the match with a hold to love.
Shang will prove a formidable foe in the final. The sixth seed has won nine matches in a row coming into the Granby final, having won last event earlier in August in Lexington.
Unlike Diallo, Shang got off to a slow start, dropping serve in his opening service game. However, he responded immediately by breaking back and never letting his opponent, Aidan Mayo, get back into the match. The sixth seed faced four more break points in the match but saved them all.
One more break of serve in eighth game of the first set and one in the seventh game of the second were all that Shang would need to advance to his second final in a row.
Sunday’s final will be the second Challenger final of Shang’s career. He also has four titles on the ITF circuit. Diallo won his first and to-date only professional title earlier this year on the ITF tour in East Lansing, Michigan. It will be a first career meeting between Diallo and Shang.
The doubles final was played on Saturday, with the all-British pair of Henry Patten and Julian Cash claiming the title. They defeated third seeds Jonathan Eysseric and Artem Sitak in straight sets.
Patten and Cash surrendered the first break of the match, but broke back immediately and claimed the momentum. The Brits would not drop serve again, winning 11 of the next 14 games to wrap up the title.