Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne
20-year-old Gabriel Diallo gave the home fans in Granby something to cheer about early on Thursday morning at the National Bank Championships, as the Canadian booked his place in his first quarter-final on the ATP Challenger Tour with a thrilling three-set win over seventh seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.
It was a battle for Diallo to reach the last eight, as he failed to take advantage of an early lead and then played from behind for the entire deciding set, even having to save a match point. But he found his best tennis in the clutch, dominating the third set tiebreak for a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2) win.
Diallo got off to a quick start in the second-round encounter, breaking serve in the opening game and riding that lone break through the opening set. He looked well on his way to victory when he broke again early in the second set, but Stebe was able to immediately respond.
Cracks started to appear in the Canadians mighty game late in the second set and he was broken in the tenth game to send the match to a decider. Stebe appeared to have the momentum in the third set, three times leading by a break. But Diallo refused to go away, breaking back each time including when the German served for the match at 5-3.
The Canadian started to find his rhythm again, although he still had to save a match point on his own serve at 5-6, putting away a smash, before running away with the tiebreak 7-2 to reach his first ATP Challenger quarter-final on home soil.
Another Canadian, Justin Boulais was on the opposite side of a similar result, as he was a point away from his first ATP Challenger quarter-final, only to lose in a third-set tiebreak to Jordan Thompson.
Boulais won the first set and then led by a double-break at 3-0 in the second, only for the third seed to force a deciding set. The Canadian then led by a break twice in the third set, served for the match at 6-5 and had two match points at 40-15 only to be broken.
One more match point came and went at 6-5 on Thompson’s serve in the breaker before the Aussie converted his second match point to take the tiebreak 9-7 and the match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(7). It was Thompson’s second win in as many days over a Canadian opponent, having beaten Liam Draxl on Wednesday.
Fifth seed Ugo Humbert continues to cruise in Granby, as he advanced to the quarter-finals after defeating Hady Habib 6-3, 6-3. The former world no. 25 has dropped just eight games through two matches.
Three other seeds were early winners on Thursday, with No. 6 Juncheng Shang, No. 9 Hiroki Moriya, and No. 10 Nicolas Mejia all winning in straight sets.
Aidan Mayo, who had never won a main-draw match on the ATP Challenger Tour prior to Wednesday, backed up his upset win over world No. 68 Jiri Vesely by cruising past Henry Patten 6-2, 6-2 to join Diallo as first-time Challenger quarter-finalists in Granby.