2021 Australian Open – Aslan Karatsev Road To The Semi-Finals
- Rd 1 def. Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2
- Rd 2 def. Max Purcell 6-1, 6-2
- Rd 3 def. Alexandre Muller 6-2, 6-1
- Rd 1 def. Gianluca Mager 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
- Rd 2 def Egor Gerasimov 6-0. 6-1, 6-0
- Rd 3 def Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
- Rd 4 def Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
- Qtr def Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Here’s a turning point for you…
Things were sliding the wrong way for Aslan Karatsev against No. 20 seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime in their fourth-round Australian Open match.
- Set 1 – Aslan lost his first two service games and lost the set 6-3.
- Set 2 – Aslan lost four straight games from 1-2 to lose the set 6-1.
In Set 3, he battled to 2-2. On the opening point, Felix hit a 187 km/h (116mph) first serve out wide. Aslan reached for the forehand return and gave it a ride down the line. It landed absolutely dead-square on the intersection of the baseline and the service line. He won the point. He broke Felix to love, and he never looked back, surging to win 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Below is that return at love all.
Yes the return was a little lucky, but I am a big believer in you create your own luck in a match. Aslan gave himself a little fist pump after the winner, showing he was still positive and still in the match. He didn’t go away, and he now finds himself in the semi-finals.
What Does Aslan Do Well?
Aslan is the real deal. His strokes are solid. His balance is ridiculously good. He prepares so early for his forehand and backhand that you wonder if it’s possible he can miss them because he is prepared so early.
Aslan is what I call a “directional player”. It’s not about spin and grinding and running and patience and shot tolerance. He is a sharp-shooter. He hits his spot. He has an uncanny ability to target a spot on the court and hit it exactly there. He makes you run. He wears you down. He plays behind you and then he jerks you off the court when you drop a ball short.
There is a little “funk” in his strokes, like his Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev. He takes the racket back high on his forehand. He holds his hands higher than normal when returning. His service motion looks a little robotic until it blasts off the strings and zips right by you.
Next up for Aslan is world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Does Aslan’s game style resemble Novak’s? In a lot of ways it does. Novak is an incredibly gifted “directional player”. Novak can go cross-court with you all day long, but he can go line on both the forehand and backhand with his eyes closed.
In a lot of ways, these two play a very similar game style.
Can Aslan upset Novak? You bet he can. He has the weaponry to make it happen. He needs to also battle the occasion and the resume of the opponent on the other side of the court. If he can push those two elements to the side and not let them consume him, Aslan can find himself in a Grand Slam final.
BREAKING: ASLAN BREAKS A LOT!
There are six different return statistics. Aslan is leading the four semi-finalists in FOUR of them!
Return Games Won
- 1: Karatsev = 42% (32/76)
- T3: Medvedev = 39% (30/76)
- T16: Tsitsipas = 28% (21/75)
- T29: Djokovic = 24% (24/98)
- 1: Karatsev = 31
- T19: Djokovic = 6
- T25: Medvedev = 5
- T40: Tsitsipas = 3
Return Points Won vs 1st Serve
- T2: Karatsev = 40% (115/289)
- 9: Medvedev =37% (96/259)
- T29: Tsitsipas = 31% (105/335)
- T53: Djokovic = 28% (109/383)
Return Points Won vs 2nd Serve
- T13: Karatsev = 56% (89/158)
- T13: Tsitsipas =56% (94/167)
- T19: Medvedev = 54% (102/188)
- T43: Djokovic = 51% (128/253)
Break Points Won
- T17: Medvedev = 57% (30/53)
- T21: Karatsev = 54% (32/59)
- T53: Djokovic = 43% (24/56)
- T53: Tsitsipas = 43% (21/49)
- T6: Medvedev = 80% (346/433)
- T24: Tsitsipas = 73% (353/482)
- T49: Karatsev = 70% (299/429)
- T76: Djokovic = 66% (408/616)
These numbers speak loudly to just how good Karatsev has been on the returning side of the equation. It’s also interesting to see that Djokovic sits in the fourth position in four of these return metrics. I am not used to seeing that.
Aslan has put up solid serve metrics for the tournament. They are not as spectacular as the return side of the equation, but this part of his game is certainly not a weakness.
Here’s some direct comparisons with Novak.
- Novak = 83
- Aslan = 48
- Novak = 19
- Aslan = 18
Unreturned 1st Serves
- Novak = 45% (191/423)
- Aslan = 42% (117/281)
Unreturned 2nd Serves
- Novak = 21% (37/177)
- Aslan = 18% (28/156)
1st Serves In
- Novak = 68% (423/619)
- Aslan = 62% (281/455)
1st Serves Won
- Novak = 78% (328/423)
- Aslan = 75% (210/281)
2nd Serves Won
- Novak = 55% (107/196)
- Aslan = 56% (97/174)
Break Points Saved
- Novak = 70% (21/30)
- Aslan = 71% (27/38)
Service Games Won
- Novak = 91% (89/98)
- Aslan = 85% (64/75)
Overall, Novak is having a better serve tournament than Aslan. Novak’s 83 aces are really, really high for him. And you combine that with 68% 1st serves in, then you can see Novak is having an exceptional serve tournament.
You can see from the picture above that he brings the racket back a little higher than most players – certainly higher than Novak. The real key is how EARLY he gets prepared. It’s hard to make forehand (or backhand) errors if your feet and hands are perfectly organized and you have ideal spacing to the ball. Aslan has an uncanny knack to not look rushed when he is trading blows from the back of the court.
This will be a major sub-plot to this match. If Aslan creates time and gets in position to hit the ball, he will be putting Novak on defense a lot. If Novak can rush his preparation and take time away, more errors will flow from Aslan’s racket.
- Novak = 84
- Aslan = 86
Forehand Forced Errors
- Novak = 84
- Aslan = 66
Forehand Unforced Errors
- Novak = 85
- Aslan = 86
These metrics are almost identical between the two players. If anything, Novak’s forehand can be attacked more, with 22 more forced errors.
- Novak = 39
- Aslan = 41
Backhand Forced Errors
- Novak = 85
- Aslan = 64
Backhand Unforced Errors
- Novak = 74
- Aslan = 77
Aslan has a solid backhand. A really good shield. You can see above that he has 21 less forced errors than Novak to the semi’s. It’s going to be tough for Novak to break down this wing if it performs like it has all tournament. Novak has arguably the best backhand in the world, but on a quick court, Aslan’s backhand has proven that it is up to any challenge that has been thrown at it.
NET AND BASELINE
Net Points Won
- Novak = 71% (72/102)
- Aslan = 74% (67/90)
Baseline Points Won
- Novak = 52% (348/667)
- Aslan = 54% (251/469)
Serve & Volley Points Won
- Novak = 100% (5/5)
- Aslan = 50% (1/2)
Net points are very similar. It’s interesting that Aslan is up to 54% of baseline points won, especially after playing Schwartzman and Auger-Aliassime. That’s very solid. Novak is more in the 54% – 55% range at this part of the tournament, so it’s important to note that he is off a couple of percentage points at 52%. That’s below par for him.
WHO WILL WIN?
I said at the start of the tournament that Djokovic is my pick, and until somebody knocks him out then don’t even talk about anyone else.
Karatsev is the real deal. Forget his current ranking of #114. Forget his career-best ranking is #111. Forget he is finally coming into his own at 27-years-old.
Karatsev is overflowing with confidence. A big weapon that he possesses is the ability to stay positive – especially under pressure. He could have easily folded in straight sets against Felix. He didn’t. He is going to believe that he can beat Novak. For sure he and Medvedev sit down and have a quiet talk about what it’s like to beat the world No. 1. The important thing for Karatsev is that his current form can win him this match. He does not have to find a new level, or try to red-line his game for three hours to pull off victory. Karatsev needs to stay the course.
This is going to be a great match! Karatsev is a fantastic story for this tournament. Welcome to the bright lights Aslan!
Have a great match guys,