Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Gabriel Diallo’s lessons

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
"Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic."

The 20-year-old was no match for Serbia’s Laslo Djere, who is ranked 66th in the world. It was Diallo himself who admitted this at a press conference on Sunday in Valencia, Spain. Admit it humbly, without shame and with a smile.

The young player said that the experience gained would help me, even if it was not the result I had hoped for. This experience will help me manage my emotions, play better in front of big fans and during my next encounters with very good players. It will make me better.

Diallo, 334th in the world, didn’t think he’d have the chance to represent his country in the Davis Cup so quickly. At the beginning of the year, he ranked 991 in the world. Just a month ago he was 553rd. His victory in the Granby Challenge Championship, in August, gave him a huge leap forward.

But the closer the player gets to the top of the leaderboard, the higher the steps.

I have to put my head down and work 20 times harder, Diallo said. We’ll see later.

He only learned at night from Friday to Saturday that he would play singles against Serbia due to Vasek Pospisil’s health condition.

Diallo and Alexis Gallarno, the fourth Canadian jockeys in Valencia this week, were preparing a meal for Felix Auger-Aliassime around 1:30 a.m.

Quebec was receiving treatment after two long matches against Spain.

Diallo explained that when Frank (Dansevich) came to me to tell me that I was going to do singles, I was stunned and didn’t expect it. I tried to prepare myself as best I could. I went to bed as soon as possible, ate well and hit balls well in the morning. I didn’t get the result I wanted, but it was a really great experience.

The experience gained is not limited to his match, it is far from it. Throughout the week, Diallo trained rigorously and above all did not spare his encouragement to his teammates on the ground.

Danjevic said Gabriel and Alexis have been great all week. You can feel the energy they gave to the team. They did it by playing very well in training and cheering in matches. They have a great future and I am very excited to have them with us.

“Alexis and I were on the bench, we did our best to motivate the players and we wanted to create an atmosphere like the college games of the Davis Cup,” Diallo said. I will remember all the moments I had this week and use them to improve myself to reach the next level.

His mere presence also contributed to the good state of mind of Félix Auger-Aliassime who played for his nation, but also for his friends.

Auger Eliassim said on Saturday that Gabriel and Alexis are good friends, and Vasek even became good friends. To see them support me all week and try to support them as best I can is a hard feeling to describe, but rewarding. It really makes me happy and I’m glad I came.

The dream, the family spirit and the message of Shapovalov

Sam Aliassime’s presence made Diallo’s Davis Cup debut even more special.

Felix’s father and first coach took Diallo under his wing when he was a teenager. He invited Montrealer to train at his academy, in Quebec, and even to live under his roof.

He was in the front row at the first major international meeting of his entourage.

Sam always told me it was his dream to see me with Felix at the Davis Cup and it came true. “I hope he won’t get too angry because I lost,” Diallo said with a smirk. I was heartened to see how much he did for me. To see him so close, he reassured me between the points and I was so happy.

Sam Eliassim, on the contrary, was not at all angry at Diallo’s defeat.

I really liked him being with the team he was so well received, Sam Eliassim said in an interview with Sports Canada Radio. It is very impressive to see him play on the field. Of course, he still has a lot to work on, but we can tell he’s having fun and it makes me happy to see him smile. He loves tennis and with this attitude we can go a long way. He never got angry, he stayed combative and that shows his respect for the sport.

A captain poses with his four players before a tennis duel at the Davis Cup

Canadian national team Davis Cup 2022

Photo: Getty Images / Clive Brunskill

I had an incredible moment and tears welled up in my eyes when I saw Felix and Gabriel singing the Canadian national anthem,” Eliassim added. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I experienced exceptional moments with the two children.

The choice of Diallo might not have been possible if Denis Shapovalov, 24 in the world, had accepted the invitation from the Canadian Tennis Club. Ontarians have not played in the Davis Cup since November 2019.

Sam Aliasim would have liked Shapovalov to be there, even if his absence opened the door for Diallo.

When we only think of ourselves, it’s selfish and we’re not going anywhere. The cool thing is when you do it as a team, when you do it as a family. When we were told that Dennis had let the team down and that he wouldn’t be here, Felix immediately said it would be a good idea to bring Gabriel.

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I am proud that Felix and Gabriel have changed their calendar to defend the colors of the nation. Take this opportunity to send the message to all athletes, regardless of sport, not to mix things up. Sometimes players have problems with associations, but we should not confuse disagreement with associations and the nation. For me, it is important to give back. Felix wasn’t playing for the Canadian Federation, he was playing for Canada and the nation.

Sam Aliassime immigrated to Canada from Togo more than 20 years ago.

A tennis player hugs another player after his victory.

Felix Auger-Aliassim hugs Vasek Pospisil after his Davis Cup win. Sam Eliassim smiles from behind.

Photo: Tennis Canada/Martin Sidorjak/Martin Sidorjak

He remembers that he came here to find a better life, like many parents who today see their children reach the highest levels in the world of sports. He is grateful for his host country.

I had the opportunity to do what I do today and give Felix the opportunity. The least we can do is for Felix to give back to the Canadian nation. For my part, I do it my way with the guys.

It was he who believed in Diallo as a teenager. The Aliassime clan may have also boosted his candidacy to be selected for the Davis Cup.

Whether or not Shapovalov is around at the end of November, Sam Aliassime wishes with all his heart that Diallo would be chosen again in order to gain more experience.

Otherwise, Diallo will likely be up for the Challenge Tournament in Drummondville, which is another learning opportunity.

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