Unfancied Russian Aslan Karatsev becomes first man EVER to reach Grand Slam semi-final on his debut as fairytale story continues at the Australian Open… with 114TH-RANKED qualifier beating an injured Grigor Dimitrov in four sets to progress
- World No 114 Aslan Karatsev has reached the Australian Open semi-finals
- He became the first Grand Slam debutant in the Open era to reach the last four
- Karatsev was largely unknown pre-tournament but is having a fairytale run
- The Russian will face the winner of Novak Djokovic against Alexander Zverev
Aslan Karatsev became the first Grand Slam debutant in the Open era to reach the semi-finals after beating an injured Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open.
Dimitrov won the first set but became increasingly hampered by a back spasm and during the third and fourth sets was struggling to serve and move around the court.
He persevered to the end but there was no doubt about the outcome as Karatsev continued one of the most remarkable grand slam runs with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory.
World No 114 Aslan Karatsev’s fairytale Australian Open run is continuing to the semi-finals
The unfancied Russian bulldozed his way into the last four by beating Grigor Dimitrov
Bulgarian star Dimitrov took a medical timeout but was never the same in the quarter-final
Dimitrov’s back became a real issue and prevented him from chasing down many loose balls
The 27-year-old Russian has plied his trade in the lower reaches of the sport for his whole career, never breaking into the top 100, only to come through qualifying and storm through the draw at Melbourne Park.
Speaking on court, Karatsev said: ‘It’s an unbelievable feeling. It was really tough at the beginning for me to hold the nerves.
‘I tried to find a way to play in the second set and then in the third set I saw he felt the back.’
Dimitrov became sluggish and stopped chasing points as his body broke down in the match
ASLAN KARATSEV’S RUN TO THE SEMIS
Qualifying: Beats Alexandre Muller 6-2, 6-1
First round: Beats Gianluca Mager 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Second round: Beats Egor Gerasimov 6-0, 6-1, 6-0
Third round: Beats Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Fourth Round: Beats Felix-Auger Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Quarter-final: Beats Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
At 114 in the world, Karatsev is the lowest-ranked man to reach the semi-finals at a slam since Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in 2001 while he is only the second qualifier to make the semi-finals in Melbourne after Bob Giltinan in 1977.
His scalps have included Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and now Dimitrov and, with both his potential semi-final opponents Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev also dealing with injuries, it is not impossible he could go further.
‘I try not to think about (that),’ he said with a smile. I try to play every match, going from match to match.
‘Of course, it’s [an] unbelievable feeling… first time playing main draw, first time [making] semis, it’s incredible.
‘It was really tough from the beginning for me to hold the nerves. I tried to find a way and then in the third he felt the back.’
Victory over a compromised Dimitrov was his fifth at the Australian Open which is all the more remarkable given he had only three previous ATP Tour-level victories prior to this slam.
Karatsev had wins in Moscow in October 2015 as well as wins at the St Petersburg Oct and the Sofia Open, both in 2020.
Victory over Dimitrov guarantees a minimum prize money cheque of at least £475,000, more than his total career winnings prior to this tournament of approximately £444,000.
There was a great deal of respect between the two at the end as Karatsev (right) marches on
For Dimitrov he was left to rue another missed opportunity at a slam having reached the last eight without dropping a set.
He said of his back spasm: ‘It started yesterday out of the blue. It was just a regular movement. Just super unlucky.
‘I felt great over all the past days. I felt I was on a good path. We’ve done great work. I couldn’t put my socks on before the match, so I knew it was going to be a tough moment for me. I tried, but it was not good enough.’
Asked why he did not elect to retire, the Bulgarian said: ‘I don’t like quitting. I’m definitely causing more harm on myself and I think on my team, but you get stubborn. You’re a competitor.
‘When you’re on the court sometimes you don’t think straight and, in that particular moment today, I just didn’t want to give up. I couldn’t give up.’