gabriel diallo She remembers when she started skipping school more to practice tennis and compete in tournaments at age 10. His parents sat him down to explain why he was in a different situation than his friends and classmates.
“They asked me how I felt about it. I thought about it and I didn’t see it as a sacrifice, because I really enjoyed it,” Diallo told ATPTour.com. “I enjoyed practicing and I enjoyed playing.”
From a very young age, Diallo dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player. “I always wanted to win Slams. All children go through that phase,” he said.
“I remember I was trying to play like him and imitate his slide and just move and just not miss the ball,” Diallo recalled. “Me and my friends at the time, we were trying to recreate that match, actually.”
Although Diallo hasn’t reached that level yet, he has risen quickly. The Canadian, to a Guinean father and a Ukrainian mother, played college tennis at the University of Kentucky before turning professional in late 2022. Last August he won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Granby, Canada, before reaching another final. to that level at Fairfield in October.
This week last year, Diallo was world No. 679 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He is now world No. 141 and continues to advance. On Tuesday, the Canadian will try to earn his first ATP Tour main draw victory when he plays the former World No. 5. kevin anderson in the first round of the Infosys Hall of Fame Open.
“It is a privilege and it is a reward for the hard work that my team and I have put in,” Diallo said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to see where my level is. A guy like him has a lot of experience and he is one of the best players in the world”.
It’s not often that Anderson’s opponents come close to the South African in the height department, but both men are 6’8”.
“He’s a guy that I obviously looked up to because they always told me that I was going to have his size, his body type. [being] tall, but he can still move and he can still play,” Diallo said. “I have everyone. I obtained kevin andersonI obtained [Marin] Cilic, I have Milos [Raonic]. Even when he was like 5’10” at 15, people knew he was going to be tall.”
At 17, Diallo grew to 6’3”. Each year thereafter he gradually grew before completing his growth, according to the doctors. Now, the Canadian is a powerful presence trying to exert his will on opponents at the top of the sport.
“There are so many ways to play tennis, there are guys who are comfortable moving from side to side and just trying to counterattack. There are guys who thrive playing like this. And there are guys who are the complete opposite like me,” Diallo said. “I play the best I can and I have the most opportunities when I bring my game to my opponent, when I try to annoy as much as I can. Obviously, I’m not trying to pace him. And it’s high risk, but it’s also high reward. So he feels good. I think that’s where I feel best and when I play best.”
Although Diallo has climbed more than 500 places in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in the last 12 months, he understands that continuing at this pace will not be easy.
“The rise is not always linear. It doesn’t always go up, there will be times when you will be a little more stable, there will be times when it will go down,” Diallo said. “Obviously last summer and last fall, it all happened very quickly and things changed for me. But it is not the reality of our sport. It is extremely rare. It is in rare cases that you just shoot [upwards] without scales.”
A player who quickly rose to the top of the sport is Felix Auger-Aliassime, another Canadian whose rise was “really inspiring” for Diallo. Auger-Aliassime’s father, Sam Aliassime, was Diallo’s trainer. What did the 21-year-old learn from the Top 15 star’s father?
“I would say the same as my parents, discipline and hard work. Keep your head down, no matter the situation,” Diallo said. “When the outcome is not certain, do your best. And respect. It’s not really different from what my parents taught me, but I would say this is the main thing that was coming up.”
Off the pitch, Diallo is like many 21-year-olds. He loves movies and TV shows, as well as spending time with his friends and his girlfriend. The Canadian also enjoys the beach and swimming, as well as eating. His favorites include pizza, a good hamburger, and a good steak. Diallo will also work remotely to complete a bachelor’s degree in finance starting next semester. He only has three classes left.
On the court, Diallo has many of the goals you’d expect: breaking into the Top 100 in the world and playing in the main draw of the majors. But the greatest desire of him is more philosophical.
“I would say that my dream is to really develop my full potential, because obviously, the people around me believe that I have a great game and that I can move up the rankings. But it starts with me,” Diallo said. “I also think I have the potential. So I just want to maximize my game and wherever it takes me I’ll be able to sleep at night and be extremely happy and proud of myself.”