Melbourne, Australia (AP) – Aslan Karatsev has come to Australia to play in a first Grand Slam peloton for the first time and he will have a piece of history.
The 114th qualifier from Russia was the first man in the professional era to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut when he beat 18-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 2: 6, 6: 4, 6: 1 on Tuesday , 6-2 defeated.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said 27-year-old Karatsev. “Of course it’s the first time. For the first time in the main draw. For the first time semis. It’s incredible.”
It was an incredible run for a player who had failed nine times to qualify for the majors.
Dimitrov finished the match barely able to serve and barely run when he left the stadium arena.
Dimitrov, a former semi-finalist in Australia, took an early lead with three service breaks in the first set. He had seven breakpoint chances in Karatsev’s first two service games in the second set, but didn’t convert any of them.
It was then that the 27-year-old Russian began to believe he could extend his already remarkable run even further.
“In the beginning it was very difficult for me to hold my nerve,” said Karatsev. “It was difficult. I tried to play in the second set to find a way to play. In the third set … played better. “
Dimitrov stopped chasing shots in the third set and asked to see the coach on the last move.
After this set, Dimitrov was visited by a trainer and then took medical time off to treat a muscle problem around his hip or back. It had a quick resurgence, but it ended just as quickly.
Dimitrov hadn’t dropped a set in his first four games.
Karatsev came off his very first five-seater after coming back from two sets to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime # 20. He also defeated Diego Schwartzman, the eighth seed, in straight sets for his first win over a top 10 player.
He is the lowest ranked man to have made it to the Australian Open semifinals since Patrick McEnroe # 114 in 1991, and the lowest ranked man to have made the semifinals of every Grand Slam since Goran Ivanisevic # 125 at Wimbledon 2001 achieved.
Karatsev will next play either defending champion Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev. Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will meet in the other half of the quarter-finals on Wednesday, which means two Russians will make it to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park.
When asked about his thoughts on a purely Russian championship decider, Karatsev stuck to what he knows.
“I try not to think about it,” he said. Just “go from game to game”.
For Naomi Osaka, the tournament buzz at the Australian Open spoiled the surprise: She could next play against Serena Williams.
Osaka beat Hsieh Su-wei 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals and face the winner of the quarter-final game between Williams and Simona Halep (No. 2).
“I usually never look at my draw,” said Osaka. “But everyone was telling me about my draw here, so I had no choice but to know who my next opponent would be. It will definitely be fun. “
Third, Osaka reached 196 km / h on their impact against Hsieh. She hit seven aces, lost just two points on her first serve, and was never broken on the way to her 19th straight win.
Osaka played excellent defense as well, like last game when they raced forward to chase a drop shot and flicked a backhand cross court for a winner.
“I couldn’t afford to be lazy with my footwork,” said Osaka with a smile. “I didn’t want to play three sentences.”
At 35, Hsieh was the oldest woman to make her Grand Slam quarterfinal debut in the professional era. But Osaka was not impressed by Hsieh’s flat, deceptive two-handed strikes from both sides, which hit forehand winners in both corners.
Hsieh said Osaka was a threat to winning the championship.
“She can always go all the way,” said Hsieh. “She just has to play her game and stay calm. She is a great player. “
Osaka’s winning streak includes a US Open title in September for their third Grand Slam championship. The series also includes her fourth round win last week when she saved two match points and won the last four games to overtake Garbiñe Muguruza.
“It makes me a little calmer knowing that my back was leaning heavily against the wall,” Osaka said.
Osaka is 4-0 in the Grand Slam quarter-finals, including a win en route to the Australian Open title in 2019. Against Williams, their record is 2-1, but they haven’t played against each other since 2019.
“She’s Serena,” said Osaka. “I feel really intimidated when I see her across the square.”
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