Aslan Karatsev showed a lot of facets – and not all of them good – after his first-round win against Pablo Andujar in Pune on Tuesday. On the court, the Russian barely made an error. He dominated the Spaniard from the first point and kept his level up right until he wrapped up the match, 6-1, 6-3 in 63 minutes.
The opening set was especially potent as he won all nine points behind his first serve. He was just as good on return as he went four-for-four on Andujar’s second-serve points. Furthermore, the 29-year-old faced no break points himself while he converted four of seven break chances that came from across the net.
But once off the court, the Russian wasn’t a happy camper as the proverb goes.
Aslan Karatsev and the silence that wasn't so silent
His reply to the question about his game against Andujar did elicit a straightforward answer.
“It’s tricky to start and you’re always under pressure (at the) beginning of the year (in the) first match,” he observed. “So, you try to focus on every single point. So, (it) just happened that I won many points in a row but you just have to keep playing”.
Moving on, it was his response to the writer’s question regarding the tough time he and his compatriots had had to endure on the Tour last year and how he personally found a way to get past them that brought out the tetchiness in the 29-year-old.
“No comments”, came back a curt reply that shut down the topic. However, the lack of a definitive response to the question not only put the subject in abeyance momentarily but also re-ignited the topic of Russian players taking a stand against their country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, it’s been amply demonstrated that the tennis community has, for the most part, come together for the latter nation and especially, for its players. At the same time, Ukrainian players have repeatedly called for Russian and Belarusian players to denounce their national leaders’ actions, which didn’t go unheeded by the latter.
The likes of Daria Kasatkina, Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov and Victoria Azarenka have made their intentions quite clear regarding the situation, despite the huge cost they’ve incurred and stand to incur.
In fact, Kasatkina – who’s been the most outspoken among all – withstood the attempts of Roman Teryushkov, a Russian Member of Parliament to term her a “foreign agent” in 2022, for going against the nation’s norms expected of its citizens.
That Kasatkina was not only opposed to Russia’s annexation attempt but also that she came out as a lesbian in a country where the LGBTQ+ community faces the harshest of stigmas became a flashpoint that threatened to snatch her identity and erase her as a person, at the core.
In light of these repercussions, it’s understandable why a player – in this case, Karatsev – wouldn’t want to make themselves clear regarding a subject that doesn’t affect tennis directly. Having said so, the irony is hard to miss in this scenario.
For, Karatsev, who was asked about his way of finding a way out of the troubled year he’d had on-court in 2022, contextualised the conversation in the very way he perhaps didn’t want it to veer. His terse, “no comments” were also akin to him implying where his views were on the conflict despite having no words to spare to discuss it, explicitly.
The 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist’s words also alluded to the possibility that while he found regaining form and getting into the groove of winning, “tricky”, he doesn’t feel the same way when facing much severe opponents in the form of real-life matters. But, perhaps we will never know about this as the only comment we have is, “no comments”.