Punters could have taken any old odds for Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev to be the first man through to the 2021 Australian Open semi-finals at Melbourne Park.
But they’d be collecting, too, after the world No.114 became the first player in 53 years of professional tennis to reach the last four of a major on his grand slam debut.
Karatsev continued his fairytale run with a 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 quarter-final triumph over an injured Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday.
Dimitrov, a former Open semi-finalist himself, looked like stopping after losing the third set but valiantly – and forlornly – continued on after receiving treatment for a back issue.
But Bulgaria’s one-time world No.3 could barely move at times and his return to Rod Laver Arena for the last set was merely a stay of execution.
It was a cruel end for Dimitrov – but an historic beginning for Karatsev.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, of course. The first time playing a main draw, first time playing the semis. It’s incredible,” the 27-year-old said.
“It was a really tough one at the beginning for me, to hold the nerves, and it was really tricky. The heat was too much.
“I tried to play in the second set. I tried to find a way how to play, and then in the third set it felt better.”
Karatsev said he didn’t know Dimitrov was hurt, until it became obvious when the world No.20’s service speed slowed to little more than half pace, virtually rolling his shoulder over to put the ball over the net.
Nor is Karatsev being distracted by the prospect of a potential all-Russian final against either fourth seed Daniil Medvedev or seventh seed Andrey Rublev, who clash in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
“I try not to think about it,” he said after first booking a showdown on Thursday with either world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic or German sixth seed Alexander Zverev.
“I just try to think to play every match, going from match to match.”