Photo : Pascal Ratthe
Day one of Team Canada presented by Sobeys’ homecoming could not have gone much better as the hosts lead the Republic of Korea 2-0 after the first day of play in their Davis Cup qualifier tie.
Gabriel Diallo and Vasek Pospisil were both winners on Friday at IGA Stadium in Montreal, each scoring straight-set singles wins to put the host nation on the brink of returning to the Davis Cup Finals group stage.
Canada needs just one win in the three matches on Saturday to win the tie.
Diallo was playing his first-ever home match in the Davis Cup and impressed, scoring the opening point for his country.
The Montreal-native rallied from a break down in each set to defeat former world No. 52 Soonwoo Kwon 6-4, 6-4 and give Canada a 1-0 lead.
The match was a war of attrition, with errors deciding the point more often than winners. The Canadian brought a bit more firepower, hitting 11 aces and 11 winners, both more than double his opponent. The Montrealer was able to create more opportunities on his opponent’s serve, breaking four times while only facing three break points.
Diallo brought the heat to start the match, firing serves well over 200 KPH right from the very first game. However, once the rallies got underway, it was Kwon who was in control.
In the fifth game, back-to-back shots into the net from the Canadian gifted Kwon a break. But the Korean struggled to back it up, playing a poor service game that included two double faults before netting a backhand to put the set back on serve.
It was the Canadian coming out of the exchange of breaks stronger. He began to assert himself more in the rallies and was able to bully Kwon into mistakes. As the Korean served to stay in the set at 4-5, a double fault gave Diallo a set point, where Kwon sent a forehand long to surrender the set.
The second set followed a similar script as the first, with Kwon applying early pressure and getting the first break, this time for a 4-3 lead courtesy of a Diallo double fault.
Just like the first set, the Canadian did not let him consolidate. This time, he converted his fourth break point of the eighth game, set up by some incredible net play by Montrealer, before drawing an error at the end of a titanic rally to get back on serve.
History repeated again as Kwon served to stay in the match at 4-5. At deuce, Diallo played some spectacular defence to draw an error from the Korean at the net and then Kwon fired one more shot wide hand the first point to the hosts.
Pospisil Steps Up As Usual
With a chance to extend his country’s lead, Davis-Cup Vasek Pospisil showed up to deliver another clutch performance, defeating Seongchan Hong for Canada to take a 2-0 lead in the tie into the weekend.
The match was eerily similar to Diallo’s with the Korean striking first in each set, only for the Canadian to respond and break again late. Pospisil walked away a 6-4, 6-3 winner in his 57th match for Canada at the Davis Cup.
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Pospisil kept the pressure on when returning, creating 10 break points and converting four. He was by far the aggressor in the match, hitting 22 winners to Hong’s five, but also had 40 unforced errors while the Korean only hit 25.
There was deja vu at IGA Stadium during the Pospisil-Hong match as the first set was yet another near copy of the two sets in the Diallo-Kwon match.
Pospisil came out playing a bit erratically and was broken in the third game. Unlike his countryman, the veteran was unable to break right back. Instead, he waited until the eighth game to score the break and level at 4-4.
As Diallo had, Pospisil made another move as Hong served to stay in the set. The Canadian went up 15-40, double set point, and was gifted the second to steal the opening set.
History continued to repeat as Pospisil’s inconsistency returned at the start of the second set and an error-filled service game resulted in a break. This time, he directly channelled Diallo by striking back in the following game, ripping a massive return to convert his second break point.
Next time Hong stepped up to the line, the Pospisil return once again shone as a huge return set up a double break point and another on the second drew an error to give the Canadian a 4-2 lead.
While it did not come in the final game of the set, that proved to be the decisive break as Pospisil closed out his final two service games to seal a second win of the day for his country.
Canada is one win away from advancing to the Davis Cup Finals once again. Pospsil will have the first crack at sealing the deal in the doubles match alongside Alexis Galarneau. If necessary, Diallo will meet Hong in the battle of No. 1s, with Pospisil and Kwon slated for the fifth and potentially deciding match.