AP Photo/Hamish Blair
Aslan Karatsev

Professional tennis player Aslan Karatsev lived in Israel as a child for close to a decade and recently reached the semifinals in his Grand Slam debut, an unprecedented feat.

By Associated Press

Aslan Karatsev will have no trouble with name recognition now.

With a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win over 18th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday, the 114th-ranked Russian qualifier become the first man in the professional era to reach the semifinals in his Grand Slam debut.

Just over a week ago, Karatsev was in the shadows of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev on the Russia team that won the ATP Cup team title in Melbourne.

Karatsev born in Russia, moved to Israel at age three, back to Russia with his father at 12, on to Moscow when he was 18, then stints in Germany and Spain. For the last three years — since he’s been working with coach Yahor Yatsyk — in Minsk, Belarus.

At the champions’ news conference, on the eve of the Australian Open, Russia’s coach Evgeny Donskoy pointed to a player to left — Karatsev didn’t get to play a “live” match because Medvedev and Rublev were unbeaten in singles— and told everyone “you’re going to hear his name soon.”

That prediction has come true. All three Russians reached the quarterfinals. Two will feature in the semis.
The 27-year-old Aslan Karatsev started putting wins together on the secondary tier of international tennis late last year. Last month, he qualified for a Grand Slam tournament for the first time after nine failed attempts.
Now he has won five matches at Melbourne Park, and taken out three seeded players including Dimitrov — a three-time major semifinalist — No. 8 Diego Schwartzman and No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Karatsev said. “Of course, it’s first time. First time in main draw; first time semis. It’s incredible.”

Now people are asking questions, starting with: where have you been?

For the last three years, he’s been working with coach Yahor Yatsyk in Minsk, Belarus.

He said he’d been moving too much, and credited Yatsyk with helping him settle. He’s had injury setbacks, too, such as a prolonged problem with his knee in 2017 when he thought long and hard about his career.

That’s where Yatsyk has had his biggest impact. “He helps me a lot,” Karatsev said, “more the mental part.”
Karatsev is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Patrick McEnroe — John’s brother — who also was No. 114 in 1991 — and the lowest-ranked man to reach the semifinals at any Slam since Goran Ivanisevic was No. 125 at 2001 Wimbledon.

He could play eight-time champion Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev in the semifinals, and there’s also the prospect of an all-Russian final.

Karatsev was asked if he thought he go all the way. He didn’t say no.
“We will see,” he said, putting out one hand. “I try to believe that what I do on court helps me to win the matches.”