Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo is a tennis giant in the making

At 22 (and six-foot-eight), Diallo is a towering presence at the net, drawing comparisons to another Canadian upstart: Milos Raonic
Alex Cyr
A boy in a jacket and sweatpants holding a tennis racket

Gabriel Diallo’s pre-teen party trick was to recount, in near-perfect detail, the marathon match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic that capped off the 2012 Australian Open. He still keeps a commemorative tennis magazine from around the same time. In childish chicken scratch, a pro player’s name is Sharpied out on the cover and replaced with: Diallo wins Australian Open.

It’s impossible to chalk up Diallo’s present-day success to daydreaming alone. From the time he was six, Diallo’s mom and dad—immigrants from Ukraine and Guinea—took him to matches at IGA Stadium, just down the street from their home in Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood. By 11, Diallo was practising there six afternoons a week as part of Tennis Canada’s national development program. Before school, he joined his mother, Iryna, a professional handball player, in Villeray Park for footwork drills. “None of it felt forced,” Diallo says. “To me, it was fun.”

A smiling boy with curly brown hair and medium-toned skin

By 2018, Diallo’s training regimen had earned him a tennis scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where he studied finance. Near the end of his third year, emboldened by a three-inch growth spurt that shot him up to six foot eight, Diallo went on a meteoric winning streak: he became the youngest Canadian to win a Challenger-level title since Félix Auger-Aliassime and, despite barely cracking the global top 700, beat James Duckworth—then the world’s 62nd-ranked player—in front of family and friends at Montreal’s National Bank Open in the summer of 2022. Diallo’s offensive flair and punishing serve started drawing comparisons to another Canadian upstart: Milos Raonic.

Soon after, Diallo began working full-time with pro coach Martin Laurendeau, and travelled to France, Australia and the U.S. in search of Grand Slam berths. To date, Diallo has represented Canada at the Davis Cup and twice reached the final round of the 2024 Australian Open qualifiers. Along the way, he also met Novak Djokovic, world No. 1 and star of one of Diallo’s formative match memories.

Get our top stories sent directly to your inbox twice a week

Diallo’s own global ranking now hovers around 136, cementing him as one of Canada’s top young superstars. But, amid all the wins, Diallo has also had to learn how to lose. “In college, you want to win every game,” he says. “In the pros, if you win two out of 30 tournaments, it’s a good year.” Ahead of a slate of matches this spring—including the Miami Open—Diallo is adapting his aggressive play with slower, more diverse moves, proving 22 years old isn’t too young for reinvention. To improve his coordination, he’s taken up soccer tennis, jump rope and footwork, the last of which has come easily. “I have my mom to thank for that,” he says.

A straight-faced boy holding a tennis racket


Hardest workout: Three sets of eight 30-second sprints during training in Sarasota, Florida.
“I wasn’t able to speak for 15 minutes afterwards.”
Weird hobby: “Reading. I used to hate it, so maybe it’s just a weird hobby to me.”
Tennis twin: American pro Christopher Eubanks. “We’re both tall and skinny and have aggressive games. He’s one of the best in the world; I’m not there yet.”
Pre-game prep: Putting a new grip on his racket and listening to Drake—especially “Jungle.”
In-flight entertainment: Binging shows and movies, like The Sopranos, The Wire, Prison Break and The Notebook.
“I made it” moment: Beating James Duckworth at the 2022 National Bank Open in Montreal. “I’d never even practised with someone in the ATP top 100.”