A RUSSIAN-Israeli tennis player ranked 114 in the world will face world number one Novak Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena today (Thursday) after becoming the first man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal on debut.
Aslan Karatsev, 27, stunned the sporting world in recent days by defeating several giants, including eighth-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman and 18th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to reach the last four at the Australian Open.
Speaking after a four-set victory over an injured Dimitrov on Tuesday, Karatsev, who has Jewish roots from his maternal grandfather, described his win as “an unbelievable feeling”.
“It was tough at the beginning for me to hold my nerve, but I tried to find a way to play,” he said.
Karatsev plays for Russia but grew up and trained in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew. He left the country as a youth, and recent days have seen the leaders of the Israel Tennis Association shaking their heads at their failure to identify and nurture his talent.
Born in Vladikavkaz, Russia, Karatsev moved to Israel when he was three years old with his family and started to practise tennis in Tel Aviv. His mother and sister remain in Israel.
“I grew up there, practising there until 12 years old, and then I moved back to Russia with my father,” he said.
A week before the Australian Open, he was a member of Russia’s ATP Cup-winning squad.