Gabriel Diallo is a natural athlete and a lover of all things sports. If he was not a tennis player, chances are that he would be competing professionally in another sport.
But the 21-year-old has already found early success on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Standing tall at 6’7” and boasting a large wingspan, the Canadian is constantly looking to use his heavy delivery and firepower from the baseline to impose his will on opponents. If a ball is left in the middle of the court, look for Diallo to crush a forehand winner.
Diallo said he gets his athletic abilities from his mother, who played on the Ukrainian national handball team and mentioned that his dad, who hails from Guinea, is “more into academics” and works in computer programming. Off the court, Diallo enjoys watching college football, basketball, and baseball. He grew up a multi-sport athlete, but there was one that he enjoyed more than others.
“I was six years old so I don’t quite remember, but from what they tell me tennis was the sport where I had the most fun,’ Diallo told ATPTour.com. “I ran track, did gymnastics. People always tell me I should play basketball. But the two I mainly played were tennis and handball, which is also a fun sport to play.”
Following a breakthrough season on the ATP Challenger Tour, Diallo announced his decision to forego his senior year at the University of Kentucky and turn professional. The two-time ITA All-American was a quarter-finalist at the 2022 NCAA Singles Championships and helped the Wildcats reach the programme’s first NCAA team championship appearance. With just four online college classes remaining, Diallo will soon graduate with a finance degree.
College Standouts Take The Challenger Route To Success
The Montreal-native is also soaking in lessons learned on the court. Despite having won just one Challenger-level match before the 2022 Granby Challenger, Diallo triumphed on home soil, where he defeated China’s Shang Juncheng in the final to collect his maiden Challenger title.
“I was a wild card in Granby and I just took it match by match,” Diallo said. “It was so fun to play there because it’s an hour from where I live. My buddies were there, the crowd really embraced me. I was playing free and motivated. It was the best experience of my pro career so far.”
Gabriel Diallo celebrates his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Granby, Canada.” />
Gabriel Diallo celebrates his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Granby, Canada. Credit: Sarah-Jade Champagne
He did not stop there. Diallo was also a finalist at the Fairfield Challenger and reached the semi-finals at the Calgary Challenger in November. After tallying a 17-7 Challenger match record in 2022, Diallo announced his decision to turn pro.
The World No. 211 worked with Felix Auger-Aliassime’s father, Sam Aliassime, until Diallo moved away to college. Now Diallo is coached by Canada’s former Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau, who helped him put together an offseason training block to prepare his body for full-time work on the Tour.
“Since now that tennis is my job, my body is going to be my engine so I need to take care of it,” Diallo said. “The biggest thing I worked on in the offseason was my fitness. When it comes to tennis, I worked on my serve, my transition, trying to play aggressive, taking the ball early and coming to net.”
Gabriel Diallo claimed his first Challenger title at home in Canada.” />
Gabriel Diallo collects the trophy at the 2022 Granby Challenger. Credit: Tennis Canada Media Centre
A pivotal moment for Diallo was the 2012 Australian Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, which the Serbian won after five hours and 53 minutes. That Melbourne thriller inspired the Canadian to chase his dreams of competing at the sport’s most prestigious events.
“I remember watching Novak vs. Rafa at the 2012 Australian Open over and over again,” Diallo said. “I don’t know if I watched it live, but I kept watching the highlights. I was like, ‘That looks so fun’. They were going at each other, a huge crowd, night session, almost six hours. I bought Novak’s outfit and I was playing with his racquet, trying to play like him.”
Now is the time to catch the rising star Diallo in action on the Challenger circuit before he too rises to the biggest stages of the ATP Tour.
The 20-year-old becomes the youngest 🇨🇦 Canadian champion on Challenger Tour since Felix Auger-Aliassime in Tashkent 2018!#ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/Nrz5amiqR5
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) August 28, 2022