Aslan Karatsev wrote history in a win over Zhang Zhizhen as the Russian has become the first player to reach the semifinal of a Grand Slam and Masters tournament as a qualifier. On Friday, qualifier Karatsev defeated Zhang 7-6 (3) 6-4 to progress into the Madrid Masters semifinal.
In 2021, Karatsev made his first Grand Slam semifinal as a qualifier at the Australian Open
Karatsev, ranked at No 121 in the world, didn't make the main draw cut for Madrid so he had to earn his main draw place through the qualifying event.
Aslan Karatsev becomes the first player to reach the semis of a Grand Slam and a Masters 1000 as a qualifier — Bastien Fachan (@BastienFachan) May 4, 2023
So far this fortnight in Madrid, Karatsev has won a total of seven matches - two qualifying and five main draw matches.
Karatsev happy he is finding his game again
Last year, Karatsev started the 2022 season by winning Sydney in his first tournament of the season but the rest of the year was pretty rough for the Russian.
Karatsev didn't enjoy much success in the first four months of the 2023 season either but in Madrid it's a completely different story. "I am happy with my condition. Back to the top level. Playing well and feeling well. From the qualifying, match by match, it has got harder, so mentally you have to be there more.
Because your opponent doesn't give you any free points so you have to be there yourself. The important thing is now recover well," Karatsev said. When the ATP rankings list gets updated on Monday, Karatsev will improve by at least around 70 places and return to around No 50 in the world.
"I started the year inside the Top 100 then I dropped and lost some matches. You have to keep going and believe and I have a team behind me that is always supporting me and believing in me," Karatsev said. In the Madrid semifinal, Karatsev plays against lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff. Karatsev defeated Struff 6-4 6-2 in the Madrid qualifying final round.
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