Montrealer Gabriel Diallo wins Granby tennis final (but can’t accept the prize money)

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Gabriel Diallo missed his first week of classes at the University of Kentucky, but he has a good excuse for his truancy.

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The 20-year-old Montrealer wrapped up a dream week of tennis Sunday when he defeated sixth-seeded Juncheng Shang of China 7-5, 7-6(5) to win the $50,000 ATP Granby Challenger.

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“This was something new for me because I won my first Challenger match last week (in Vancouver),” said Diallo. “I played free and I went out to have fun. It reminded me of what it was like playing as a kid.”

Diallo played three tiebreakers in his five matches and said he was lucky to win all of them.

“It could have ended at any time,” he said. “I faced a match point in the second round but I managed to come back and win.”

The 6-foot-7 Diallo delivered 10 aces and won 76 per cent of the points on his first served to get past Shang, a 17-year-old who is the top-ranked player at his age at No. 246.

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Diallo trained at the National Training Centre in Montreal and with Félix Auger-Aliassime’s father, Sam, in Quebec City before heading south on a tennis scholarship. He reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA championships this year and earned All-American recognition.

He won a round of qualifying at the National Bank Open this month to begin his climb in the rankings. He started the month at No. 665 and his win Sunday boosted him to No. 343. The jump in the rankings will allow him to qualify for Challenger events when he can fit them into his school commitments.

“My coaches are pretty good at giving me opportunities to play tournaments, but I may have to adjust my courses,” said Diallo, who is pursuing a degree in finance. He’s registered for six courses in the fall semester and three in the spring.

The winner’s purse for the men’s event was $7,500, but Diallo was unable to accept it because it would jeopardize his college eligibility.

The inaugural WTA 250 National Bank Championships of Granby wrapped Saturday with top-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia defeating Daria Gavrilova Saville of Australia 6-4, 6-4. Saville fought off four match points before losing the final game, which lasted 14 minutes.

Kasatkina, who is No. 10 in the WTA rankings, earned $19,750 while Saville collected $11,000.

phickey@postmedia.com

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