Aslan Karatsev started last week without a major Grand Slam draw on his resumé. Now, the Russian warrant has entered the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The World No. 114 amazing return on Sunday, rising past 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park. Karatsev is just the seventh man in the Open Era to make the semi-finals of his main game.
“It was very difficult at first to play with him,” Karatsev said in his interview with the court. “He’s a really good player and he plays really fast. He gave me two sets to find a way to play.”
None of them had played a five-set game at the start of the day. But Karatsev rode his momentum wildly to become the third player in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open after three hours and 25 minutes.
After Russia won the ATP Cup final, Daniil Medvedev said, “Aslan, I am not joking, was a secret weapon for doubles. ”But Karatsev has proven force on the singles court at the first Slam of the season, and will play third seed Dominic Thiem or 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the semi-finals.
“I’ll be ready for everyone,” Karatsev said, smiling.
The Russian played drop-jaw tennis in the first three rounds – winning the nine sets he played – including a spotless performance against eighth-seeded Diego Schwartzman. But in the first two sets against Auger-Aliassime, Karatsev looked like a player outside the top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, making 26 non-critical mistakes.
The 27-year-old left the court for a bathroom break after the second set, and when he returned to Margaret Court Arena, he started playing at the same level as he did in the first three rounds. Karatsev did not lose a service match the rest of the game. Auger-Aliassime, who was keen to take his two-set lead, dropped the percentage of his service – he accounted for more than 70 percent of his first services in the first two sets – and spent that’s expensive.
That allowed Karatsev to get into more points and find rhythm. As the game progressed, the Russian was always shouting “come on!” To pump himself up as his game improved. On the other side of the net, Auger-Aliassime began to make more non-judgmental mistakes, and the tide moved swiftly.
You may also like: Aslan Karatsev: Destroying Russia’s ‘Secret Weapon’
In the second half of the game, both players consistently finished in their back corner. Karatsev was comfortable in those cross-court rallies, and Auger-Aliassime tried to change direction first, usually leading to error.
Karatsev converted just one of his five break points in the decision-making set, and Auger-Aliassime raised his level to stay within attractive distance. But Karatsev remained calm, clapping his hand – his 37th winner – at the point of the game.
“I feel good. Of course, a little tired. But what could I do?” Karatsev said. “I put everything in this game. I’m happy.”
This is Karatsev ‘s first Grand Slam tour, but he has been in good shape since tennis began last August after being suspended for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russian has won 18 of his last 20 games of the ATP Challenger Tour in 2020, claiming two awards at that stage.
The 27-year-old struggled with a knee injury in 2017, which kept him out for six months. But he has regained his composure and scoops the top 100 for the first time after the Australian Open.
Auger-Aliassime did not lose a set in his first three games, and was locked in a three – set victory against 11th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round. But the #NextGenATP Canada fell short of reaching the first semi-final of a Grand Slam.
Did you know?
Karatsev lost 22 games against Auger-Aliassime. In the first three rounds, he dropped 20 games together.