Tennis Prose



Karatsev Knew This Would Happen

The name Aslan Karatsev has gone from total obscurity in one week to on the step of superstardom.

Karatsev crushed Felix Auger-Aliassime yesterday at AO, coming back from two sets down to shock the Canadian in five 36 16 63 63 64. The previously unknown Russian, best known maybe for beating Tennys Sandgren late last year in St. Petersburg, is into the quarterfinals of the 2021 Australian Open, as a qualifier.

Karatsev is 27 and this is his first major main draw. Even Roger Federer Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic did not make the QF of their first major main draw. In 2018, Karatsev was playing Futures in places like Hong Kong, Tunisia and Qatar.

Of his sudden success, Karatsev says “I was working a lot. It just happened right now. You never know when it will happen. It just happened right here.”

My first memory of Karatsev was in 2019 seeing him play at Sarasota and Tallahassee Challengers. In Sarasota he beat Sekou Bangoura, Mats Moraing and Hugo Dellien before retiring in the third set at 4-5 vs Andrea Collarini. In Tally, he lost in three sets in the first round to Switzerland’s Sandro Ehrat.

Last spring and summer, during the ATP World Tour hiatus, Karatsev played in Harry Cicma’s Pro Series in Saddlebrook, Florida. The founder of the event, Cicma remembers the serious Russian: “Karatsev called me with interest to play. He flew in from Russia to compete. He was a true warrior and it was an honor to have him compete on the Harry Cicma Pro Tennis Tour.   He beat another competitor on our Tour, Egor Gerasimov, in the second round of this year’s Australian Open (60 61 60).    Aslan was a major warrior on our tour, he wanted to compete in multiple matches per day, and he thrived in the Florida Summer heat at Saddlebrook Resort.  He literally was always keen to play two matches per day against top 200 caliber ATP players, and that is why he is thriving in the hot conditions in the Australian Open.   I believe he has a strong chance to advance in this fortnight and for many more events to come.  The focus of our tour was to build character and stamina for the middle ranked pros, who were looking to stay sharp for the prime time ATP Tour Events, and Aslan is an example of that.”

Karatsev did not stand out as a junior. In 2011 he played three junior Grand Slams and made no impact. At US Open he beat Maxime Dubarenco but then lost in the second round to Filip Horansky 63 62. At junior Wimbledon first round he lost to Oliver Golding 46 in the third. At junior Roland Garros first round he lost to Enzo Couacaud 06 36.

But look at him now. Aslan Karatsev, ranked 114, just annihilated two dangerous seeds Diego Schwartzman (63 63 63) and Auger-Aliassime and the third banana on the Russian ATP Cup team (behind Medvedev and Rublev) next will play 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday in the QF.

It just goes to show. You never know what can and will happen next. Karatsev’s unexpected sudden rise may be the most inspiring, impressive story in the men’s draw, along with 35 year old Su-wei Hsieh making her first major quarterfinal in singles at 35 after her 64 61 win yesterday vs. Marketa Vondrousova.



  • Scoop Malinowski · February 14, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Karatsev has some of the best CMON ROARS and fist pumps in the ATP. His intensity made Felix look like a meek, quiet teenager. I believe Karatsev can beat the rejuvenated Dimitrov. Super G was 0-2 career vs Felix, never won a set.

  • GB · February 14, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Karatsev grew up in Israel ( after immigrating from Russia as a young kid ), played in Israel til age 16 then moved back to Russia, and played futures for a few years, then started doing well in challengers last year, came into this event as 114th, he was 3 out of the main draw…had a choice and chose to play for Russia but he speaks Hebrew fluently, there were no funds for him in Israel , that’s why he moved , ( good move )

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 15, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for the info GB. It’s nice to have a complete stranger player burst into the world tennis stage. This kind of thing happens infrequently. Kind of reminds of Vladimir Volchkov, who made Wimbledon semis out of nowhere.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 15, 2021 at 9:54 am

    No surprise to see Nadal, Tsitsipas, Rublev, Med, Djokovic, Zverev but Dimitrov and especially Karatsev were unexpected to get through. Serena Osaka, Halep, Nuchova, Hsieh, Barty, Mertens, Brady, Pegula, guess you have to favor Osaka, she looks unbeatable, especially after how cool and unflappable she looked saving those two match points vs Muguruza. Like it was nothing to her. Only worry is she defers to Serena in the semi, and subconsciously tanks to her “mom” so she can catch Margaret Court.

  • Harold · February 15, 2021 at 11:57 am

    Voltchkov won Junior Wimbledon. Played at the courts I played at in Brooklyn, before returning to Minsk.

    This whole who roars, and who doesn’t is your metric for greatness. You missed the whole” why Djoker roared “ after Fritz. Not one mention of the drama of the match. The injury up 2 sets, the 10 minute break he got to rest, and get better, while they threw out the fans, for lockdown.

    Between you’re obsession with roaring, who wears their hat backwards, nobody ever discusses the actual tennis

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 15, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Harold, I did discuss Djokovic’s roaring after beating Fritz. I got the translation too. It was basically king kong thumping his chest after killing the giant lizard. Sending a message out to all the tennis jungle. And it showed much he wants this. He wants it more, needs it more than anyone else, but Karatsev may disagree. We shall see. Loving these matchups. Cahill and Gilbert are both picking Karatsev to beat Dimitrov, which seems somewhat disprespectful to Dimitrov as you would think he is the heavy favorite. Haven’t mentioned a backward cap in weeks or months. Maybe I should write a new article about backward caps, thanks for the reminder )



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