Russia’s Aslan Karatsev is interviewed after his win over Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The Australian Open continues but without crowds after the Victoria state government imposed a five-day lockdown in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
- No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov and qualifier Aslan Karatsev coming out of this quarter is an upset in itself
- At 27, this is the first Grand Slam main draw for Karatsev, who came from the qualifying
- Dimitrov isn’t as heavy a favorite as you’d expect. We break down Karatsev’s chances for the upset
Melbourne, Australia – No one saw Aslan Karatsev coming in this Australian Open.
Not No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman, who saw 50 winners fly by him despite being among the best defenders in the game.
And not No. 20 Félix Auger-Aliassime, who cruised to a two-sets-to-none lead in their fourth-round match before it all went awry.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Aslan Karatsev Odds
| Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)||-2.5 (-105)||-215||O 38.5 (-118)|
|[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS)||+2.5 (-117)||+170||U 38.5 (+107)|
Odds taken Feb. 15 at DraftKings
So from a quarter of the draw that was, on paper, to feature No. 3 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 8 Schwartzman in the final eight, the eventual semifinalist will be a big surprise.
But who will it be?
Dimitrov Crushes Thiem in Fourth-Round rout
One of the early cases of COVID-19 among the pro players, Dimitrov never seemed to quite recover from his bout with the coronavirus last summer.
But in this Australian Open, he has been reborn to an extent – with some luck.
It has always been the Bulgarian’s most consistent Grand Slam; Dimitrov is in the quarterfinals for the fourth time in 11 trips. He has made the semifinals once, in 2017. And he also reached the fourth round on two other occasions.
Dimitrov got to the final eight with a bit of good fortune and with an ideally limited amount of wear and tear on the body.
In the third round, Pablo Carreño Busta retired down 0-6, 0-1.
In the fourth round, Thiem was visibly not himself, although he wouldn’t specify the issue. Dimitrov dropped just eight games and spent just over two hours on court.
First Meetings are Hard
Not surprisingly, the two are meeting for the first time.
Only two years separate them. But Karatsev has been grinding it out on the Challenger circuit all these years while Dimitrov, a junior prodigy, climbed the ranks quickly.
While the opponents in his earlier rounds knew him from the Challengers, he wasn’t exactly an opponent who would stand out years later. But the top guys don’t know him.
Karatsev was a top-50 junior. Good, not great. But he did pull off a win against Thiem – who is nine days younger – at the Wimbledon junior warm up in Roehampton.
A decade ago.
Aslan Karatsev’s ‘Winners Road’ Though the Draw
|R1: Gianluca Mager (ITA)||6-3, 6-3, 6-4||32||26|
|R2: Egor Gerasimov (BLR)||6-0, 6-1, 6-0||40||29|
|R3:  Diego Schwartzman (ARG)||6-3, 6-3, 6-3||50||38|
|R4:  Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)||3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4||37||46|
Courtside for Russia’s ATP Cup victory
Karatsev was the forgotten man last week, when he took on captain’s duties for the ATP Cup team event and played some doubles.
With top-10 players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev on his team, he was mostly just “that guy” sitting on the bench.
He’s no longer benched.
FROM QUALIFYING TO QUARTER-FINALS 🙌
🇷🇺 Aslan Karatsev continues his dream #AusOpen run with a 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win over Auger-Aliassime. pic.twitter.com/FaOqGtNudE
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 14, 2021
Gerasimov had heard of him; he beat him twice at Challenger tournaments in Uzbekistan.
In the second round in Melbourne, Gerasimov got … one game.
Mager was in a similar situation. Auger-Aliassime was 1-1 against him in the Challengers, so he knew what he was up against.
But in a first career five-setter for both, the older (if less accomplished man) had the steadier hand.
This was Karatsev’s life, in a nutshell, not so long ago.
Can Karatsev’s Run Continue?
It’s one thing to go on a four-match run riding the wave in a major.
But each one after that, once you reach the final eight, becomes exponentially harder.
You’re no longer completely unknown. Dimitrov and coach Dante Bottini will have taken a good, hard look at his game.
But if Karatsev can fire up the winners machine the way he has so far in the tournament, he has shown that anything is possible.
DraftKings has the match at +340 to go under 8.5 games in the first set, a 6-2 set at best. Given Karatsev’s sure to be nervous (and given his slow start as he adjusted to the pace of Auger-Aliassime in the previous round), that’s worth a shot.
Best Bet: Dimitrov in four sets (+325)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.