After the most improbable of Australian Open adventures, Aslan Karatsev may have gone – but he won’t be forgotten any time soon by world tennis if he has his way.
The 27-year-old Russian’s odyssey in Melbourne after years of anonymity felt so unlikely that there’s a temptation to feel he could now fade away just as quickly as he emerged over this past fortnight.
Yet as he reflected on Thursday’s semi-final defeat by the world’s best player Novak Djokovic – a doughty, fearless effort even if he was eventually and inevitably outclassed – Karatsev explained how he was now determined not to be seen as some one-slam wonder.
“It was a great two weeks for me, starting with the qualies. It’s a good experience,” reckoned Karatsev, summing up his adventure after bowing out with the “unbelievable” support of the Rod Laver Arena crowd still ringing in his ears.
Karatsev eventually lost 6-3 6-4 6-2 to Djokovic, ending a fairytale run which had seen him battle through the qualifiers in Doha, before earning the notable scalps of Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and top-tenner Diego Schwartzman in Melbourne.
It sounded as if the confidence instilled in Karatsev by becoming the first man in the Open era to reach the last-four on a grand slam debut and the lowest-ranked man to make the semis in a major for two decades may have transformed everything for the Muscovite.
Asked what he took away from the fortnight, he said: “That I can play with everyone. To be there and to compete with everyone.
“It give me more experience, more confidence. I think it will help me a lot during my career.”
As, he also thinks, will suddenly being rocketed into the game’s top 50 players.
Ranked 114 in the world at the start of the tournament, he’ll be elevated to No.42 when the ATP issue their new rankings on Monday.
He knows the importance of joining that elite. “Now I will be playing all big tournaments without playing the qualies. So I’ll get this confidence and just keep playing, keep practising,” he said.
Winnings of $850,000 – more than he’s scooped in the whole of the rest of his career – will come in handy too.
When asked what he planned to do with this splendid pay day, he just smiled at his interrogator: “I will call you and we discuss together.”