‘An Incredible Feeling’ Aslan Karatsev Reacts To Historic Win Over Injured Dimitrov At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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‘An Incredible Feeling’ Aslan Karatsev Reacts To Historic Win Over Injured Dimitrov At Australian Open

Prior to this year, the world No.114 has never played in the main draw of a Grand Slam and now he is in the semi-finals.

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Russian underdog Aslan Karatsev has rewritten the record books after beating an injured Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old qualifier valiantly battled back from a set down to stun the former top 10 player 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, in what is his first ever Grand Slam main draw tournament. Although the win was overshadowed by the health of his opponent who struggled with a back injury throughout the last two sets and looked at one stage to be on the verge of retirement. Besides the physical woes of Dimitrov, Karatsev continued to produce some inspired tennis as he hit 34 winners en route to a historic victory.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s my first time playing in a (Grand Slam) main draw and now first time in the semis, incredible,” the world No.114 said during his on-court interview.
“It was a really tough one at the beginning for me to hold my nerves and it was really tricky. Then I tried to find a way to play in the second set and then in the third set he (Dimitrov) felt the back.”

Initially Karatsev was on his back footing against Dimitrov after dropping the opening set in just 34 minutes before facing a series of break points during the second. However, he managed to battle back by breaking twice to level the set at one-all before it became apparent that there was a physical issue bothering his opponent.

Throughout the third frame Dimitrov struggled with his movement on the court and was unable to serve at full speed. Enabling the 27-year-old qualifier to run away with the match with the help of some world class shot-making. During a medical time out Dimitrov confirmed that he had a spasm in his back which started yesterday and received treatment prior to the match.

The encounter was as much of a mental test for Karatsev who also had to contend with having to play somebody who was visibly injured. Nevertheless, it didn’t derail him from his game plan as he continued to hit some thunderous shots. A Dimitrov forehand error granted him another break to move 3-1 up in the fourth set and close in on a remarkable win. From that stage on it was only a matter of time before the Russian sealed the historic triumph. As Dimitrov served to stage in the match four games later, two return winners from Karatsev secured him the victory.

“I’m surprised that I am here. There was a lot of work done beforehand and I will just keep playing every match,” Karatsev told Eurosport.
“There were some tricky games and I tried to focus on myself, play my game and not see what was happening with Grigor.

Ranked 114th in the world Karatsev has become the first man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final on their debut in the Open Era and only the second qualifier to have ever done so at the Australian Open. The first was Nicolas Escude in 1998. He is also the lowest ranked man to reach the last four at Melbourne Park since Patrick McEnroe in 1991.

The victory means that there will be two Russian men in the semi-finals of a major for only the third time in the Open Era. Daniil Medvedev plays Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian quarter-final encounter on Wednesday. As for Karatsev, he will next face the challenge of taking on either Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” he said about the upcoming clash. “I am thinking about playing match-by-match.”

Karatsev has won nine Challenger titles in his career, including two last year.

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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Andrey Rublev Reflects On Recent Struggles Ahead Of Monte Carlo Title Defence

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Andrey Rublev admits he continues to struggle to maintain his emotions on the court after his disqualification from a tournament earlier this year.

The Russian world No.6 hopes to get back on track after a disappointing American swing where he won just one out of three matches played. In Indian Wells, Rublev beat ex-No.1 Andy Murray before falling in straight sets to Jiri Lehecka. Then in Miami, he lost his opening match against Tomas Machac. 

“At Indian Wells, I was so focused on trying to control my movements that I was completely stuck,” the 26-year-old recently commented
“I had no energy left, I had no strength. And in Miami, I exploded. I could no longer control myself, my actions, my nerves. I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t move.”

As to why Rublev felt so paralyzed, he acknowledges it could be linked to an incident that happened earlier in the season. At the Dubai Tennis Championships he was defaulted from his semi-final clash against Alexander Bublik for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was accused of saying an obscenity in his native language at an official. He then successfully appealed against the penalty and retained the ranking points and prize money he earned, barring a fine of $36,400 for a code violation.

“Maybe what happened in Dubai remains in my mind,” said Rublev. 

Rublev’s focus now switches to his title defence at the Monte Carlo Masters. It is the only Masters 1000 event he has won so far in his career. 

“I feel better. These last two weeks I have been training a lot. But it’s one thing to train well, it’s another to play well in a match.” He evaluated of his current form. 

Rublev has yet to defend a Tour-level title so far in his career. Should he do so, he will become only the fifth player in the Open Era to win multiple Monte Carlo trophies. 

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