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“There’s a reason why I’m here”: How Daniel Elahi Galán pulled off a Stefanos Tsitsipas stunner
Playing in his first hard court tournament since March, the Colombian won the first 11 games in a row and needed nine match points to oust the world No. 5 in four sets.
Published Aug 30, 2022
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NEW YORK—When qualifier Daniel Elahi Galán took the court against the ATP Tour’s top players in the past, the same things tended to happen.
The 26-year-old from Colombia would feel himself tensing up before the match even began, and his normally free-flowing game would become streaky and full of errors. Mentally, he also struggled to convince himself that he belonged on the same courts as the game’s best.
After qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw of the year at the US Open, Galán was determined to take a different mental approach in his first meeting with world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I think a lot of times, you think that the guys at the top are doing things better, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the guys aren’t working hard too,” Galán told press after the biggest win of his career. “I mean, winning three rounds in qualies, that’s very, very tough too…
“Obviously, the top players have some details that can make a difference in the matches, but you also have to stay positive and believe in your own game.”
Winning the first eleven games in a row against Tsitsipas on Louis Armstrong Stadium was his proof of concept.
But it was the way Galán weathered the Greek’s third and fourth set resurgence that showed he too has the game to compete with the world’s best—and even get there himself—as he completed a 6-0, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 stunner on his ninth match point on Monday evening.
“That’s been my problem in the past when I played those guys,” he explained. “When I was playing against [Novak] Djokovic and [Alexander] Zverev, for example, I was feeling kind of small when I should have been thinking, ‘There’s a reason why I’m here.’
“There’s a reason why I got to be on that court to play Djokovic or to play Zverev—because clearly I’m doing the right things, too. In the end, you have to take it as something to give you confidence.”
All nine of Galán's match points came on Tsitsipas’ serve, as the Greek tried to avoid another early exit from the US Open, the only Grand Slam where has yet to progress past the third round. But each time Tsitsipas seemed to wedge open a comeback opportunity, Galan relied on his forehand to do damage and rushed up to the net to close out points and slam the door shut.
Coached by his dad, Santos Galán, the Colombian was playing in the US Open main draw for the first time after falling in the qualifying rounds in his previous three trips to New York. He hadn't played a hard-court tournament this year since the Miami Open, preferring to chip away at his ranking on clay-court Challenger tournaments and breaking into the ATP Top 100 for the first time as a result.
Galán kept his focus to weather Tsitsipas’ surge—and the magnitude of the situation—by keeping his dad’s words in mind:
“The biggest message I got from my dad was just enjoy it. Just remember I’m doing the right things,” Galán said. “Just forget the rest of it, the stadium, the caliber of opponent, just go out there and do what you have to do.”
Sitting at a career-high No. 94 ranking, Galán will take on Jordan Thompson in the second round.