It’s an incredible feeling, first time main tournament, first time semifinal, said Karatsev.
The win meant Karatsev, 27, became the first man to reach a grand slam semifinal on his debut and continued a stunning run where he had already seen eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
He is only the fifth qualifier to reach the last four of a gentlemen major in the open era. It could be an all-Russian final, as his ATP Cup teammates Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will meet in a quarter-final on Wednesday.
I’m trying not to think about it, I’m just watching the next game, said Karatsev.
It was a bitter blow to Dimitrov. The Bulgarian had had excellent contact in the first set.
Karatsev may have had the early break, but Dimitrov broke back and increased the intensity. Shortly after, he broke up again and took a 4-2 lead behind his all-court game. Karatsev failed himself with 17 unforced errors in the first seven games, as he was behind 5-2. These continued in what turned out to be the deciding match when a backhand from Karatsev handed his opponent the set in 33 minutes.
Dimitrov typically enjoys being a front runner as it allows him to remain aggressive. His intent was clearly to love in the opening game of the second set he won, but in scorching heat, this game picked up a gear and Karatsev found his groove.
When Karatsev felt that this match was slipping, he saved five break points to maintain service in the second game of the set. He soon had the advantage when he broke Dimitrov, the latter ending a bad game with a wild smash volley that lasted a long time. But, just like in the first set, Karatsev immediately relinquished this advantage.
He kept on fighting and had another breakpoint at 40-30 to take a 5-4 lead, only for the scrambling Dimitrov to rush through a 15-shot point and force two. But another chance came and Dimitrov withers, giving his opponent the chance to serve for the set. Karatsev had three set points and only needed one to get the job done.
It was Karatsev who scored the early break in the third set, a cracking double-handed backhand across the track that secured a 2-1 lead. Dimitrov began to wilt in the heat of 30 degrees and even chose not to sit down at the alternation of the ends at a time when he began to experience physical problems. Karatsev held service this time, his forehand increasingly became a weapon.
Dimitrov’s next service game fifth of the set was mind-boggling as he seemed to give up and even started to leave the field before Karatsev’s winning return had flown by.
He is ready … there is no more drive from his legs. It doesn’t make much sense to play like that, former Australian player Todd Woodbridge said during Nines’ commentary.
Trailing 1-5, Dimitrov could barely serve the final game of the set and trudged off the field again before his opponent completed the winning return to confirm a 2-1 sets lead.
Dimitrov then had a medical time out, his afternoon nearly over.
Jon Pierik is a cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his writing on cricket and basketball.
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