What Aslan Karatsev of Vladikavkaz, Russia has been able to accomplish at the 2021 Australian Open in Melbourne is magical. No one expected Karatsev, the 114th-ranked player in the world, to be among the four semifinalists on the men’s side, but that is what the qualifier has achieved.
After defeating Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Karatsev became the first player ever to reach the men’s semifinals in his grand slam main draw debut according to ESPN. Karatsev had attempted to reach the main draw of a major before, but lost in qualifying on nine separate occasions. Now the three-time medalist from the Summer Universiade will not have to worry about qualifying for a major tournament for the foreseeable future. Karatsev’s ranking will soar well inside the top 50.
The fact that Karatsev has been a Cinderella story at the 2021 Australian Open is an understatement. He is one of five men’s players all-time to reach the semifinals of a major as a qualifier in the Open era (joined by John McEnroe of the United States at the 1977 Wimbledon, Bob Giltinan of Australia at the 1977 Australian Open, Filip DeWulf at the 1997 French Open, and Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus at the 2000 Wimbledon).
Karatsev is also the lowest-ranked player to reach the semifinals of a major since Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia won Wimbledon in 2001. Ivanisevic was ranked 125th in the world. Ivanisevic will have a link to Karatsev’s semifinal at the Australian Open, as he happens to be the coach of Karatsev’s final four opponent, world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
The other semifinal on the men’s side has the fourth seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia against the fifth seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. The semifinals on the women’s side have third-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan against the 10th-ranked Serena Williams of the United States, and the 22nd-ranked Jennifer Brady of the United States against 25th-ranked Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.