MELBOURNE, Australia — He is the mystery man who few in the sport had heard of just days ago. But Aslan Karatsev of Russia has landed in the semifinals of the Australian Open.
In one of the most unlikely runs in the history of modern tennis, Karatsev on Tuesday became one of the few players to make the final four of a Grand Slam after surviving the qualifying tournament when he beat an ailing Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in four sets 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Karatsev, 27, who was born in Russia, moved to Israel as a child, then returned to Russia as a teenager to pursue better tennis training, according to The Times of Israel. He had been playing in the tennis hinterlands for several years with little success. He had never qualified for a Grand Slam before this tournament. He won three straight matches at the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha to win a spot in the main event and came in ranked No. 114 in the world. He has never been ranked higher than No. 111.
Dimitrov appeared to have the match under control after the first set but suffered what looked to be back spasms in the third set and appeared to be on the edge of retiring for the rest of the match.
Just four other players have made the semifinals of a Grand Slam after getting through the qualifying event.
Ahead of the Australian Open, he played doubles for Team Russia in the ATP Cup, a team event in which players represent their countries. Russia won the competition, but not because of Karatsev, who lost all three matches in which he played with two different partners.
His teammates noticed that he was playing as well as they had ever seen, and yet none of them would have predicted anything like this.
“We felt like he could do something amazing,” Daniil Medvedev, Russia’s top player and the No. 4 seed in the Australian Open. “To be honest, being in your first Grand Slam main draw? Making quarters is something exceptional. He’s not over yet.”
He certainly is not.
Karatsev will take on the winner of the match between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev, which is scheduled for Tuesday night.