Aslan Karatsev has had a dream start to 2021 so far, reaching the top 50 and winning his first ATP title – the prestigious Dubai Open Championship.
Karatsev started the year ranked 112th in the world, and had to play the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open before going on a fairytale run to the semi-finals where he was defeated by Novak Djokovic.
In doing so, the Russian became the first man in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut.
That run alone meant he moved into the top 50 of the men’s game for the first time and he received a wildcard entry to Dubai, defeating British Dan Evans and Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the early rounds.
The Russian went on to defeat Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals before pulling off a shock win over in-form Andrey Rublev in the semi-finals and in doing so, put a stop to his 23 match winning streak at ATP 500 level.
The Dubai Championships had seen a depleted field this year with Roger Federer pulling out the week before to concentrate on his fitness and number one seed Dominic Thiem losing to qualifier LLoyd Harris in round one.
But nevertheless Karatsev had to face tough opposition to reach the final, as had his opponent Lloyd Harris, who after seeing off Thiem in round one, also had to defeat both Kei-Nishikori and world number 12 Denis Shapovalov along the way.
The final was the first time since 2017 that a wild card entry and a qualifier have faced each other in a ATP final, with the added pressure of whoever won, would also win their first ATP final.
Karatsev defeated Harris 6-3,6-2 and afterwards said he was feeling full of belief in his game.
“I am really happy with my performance and [I am] really happy with my game,” said Karatsev.
“At the beginning of the year, [I was happy] to play an Australian Open semi-final [and] to show a great level.
“After the Australian Open, I kept going, practising hard… I arrived here with more belief than in Doha. I showed a fantastic week and a good game.”
Karatsev is now expected to reach the top 30 in the ATP rankings after a formidable few months.
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