Giant-killer Karatsev in 25-year first at Australian Open

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 14, 2021 Russia's Aslan Karatsev celebrates winning his fourth round match against Canada's Felix Auger Aliassime REUTERS/Kelly Defina

Melbourne, Feb 14  : Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev became the first player to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final on debut in 25 years Sunday, stunning 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Australian Open.

The power-hitting 27-year-old, a virtual unknown before the tournament started, battled back from two sets down to upset the Canadian 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Margaret Court Arena.

It continued his giant-killing run after blitzing eighth seed Diego Schwartzmann in round three, setting up a quarter-final clash with either world number three Dominic Thiem or Grigor Dimitrov.

“Amazing, amazing. It was a big win from 2-0 down and emotionally it was tough. It’s a good feeling,” he said as the moment sunk in.

“The match is long. You play best of five, so looks like it’s over, but I just kept playing every ball and focusing on the next ball.”

Karatsev, ranked 114, is the first Grand Slam debutant to reach the quarter-finals at a major since Romanian Alex Radulescu at Wimbledon in 1996 and only the seventh in the Open era.

He is the first qualifier to achieve the feat since Australia’s Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon in 2011 and only the third at the Australian Open after Bob Giltinan in 1977 and Goran Ivanisevic in 1989.

“You told me just now that I broke some records. Of course it’s a good feeling,” he said.

“But I try to more focus on the tournament, on the matches.”

The bearded Karatsev has been on the verge of playing a Grand Slam for years, but on nine previous attempts the injury-dogged Russian fell in qualifying.

He was part of the victorious Russian ATP Cup team this month along with Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, who play their fourth-round matches on Monday.

Asked to explain why he had broken through now after so many years, he said: “Yes, it’s impressive, but I was working a lot, and it just happened right now.

“It’s like you never know when it happens. It just happened here.”