Aslan Karatsev reaffirmed his return to top form with a stunning upset of second seed Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday at the Mutua Madrid Open.
The former World No. 14 and three-time tour-level titlist delivered a remarkable barrage of baseline hitting en route to a 7-6(1), 6-4 triumph against the in-form Medvedev on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. Karatsev’s power and the consistent depth of his groundstrokes proved too much even for Medvedev, one of the best defenders on Tour, to handle.
“I’m feeling great, playing well,” said Karatsev, who came through qualifying to reach the main draw in Madrid and now holds a 6-7 record against Top 10 opponents. “I just have to focus every match, so I will be prepared for the next one… [Against top players] you just concentrate more, you have to be 100 per cent, you have to focus more because they do not give you any free points.
“You have to be consistent and mentally tough, so I think I’m doing well.”
Karatsev has a history of shining as a qualifier on the big stage. At the 2021 Australian Open, he came through qualifying to become the first man to reach the semi-finals on Grand Slam debut in the Open Era, taking out Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov en route.
Some of Karatsev’s hitting against Medvedev on Tuesday was reminiscent of that Melbourne run. Hitting freely off both wings, he crashed 27 winners to Medvedev’s eight to become just the fifth player to defeat the World No. 3 this season.
Karatsev charged to the first-set tie-break with four clean winners in eight points and claimed a decisive break in the fifth game of the second set to seal a 93-minute victory. The World No. 121 will next face Taylor Fritz or Zhang Zhizhen at the Caja Magica.
Having dropped as low as No. 129 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 17 April after a modest 12 months, the 29-year-old Karatsev has defeated seeded players Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur and Medvedev in consecutive rounds in Madrid. Now up to No. 89 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his exploits in Spain, he is feeling confident as he prepares for his maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.
“I was struggling last year,” said Karatsev after improving his ATP Head2Head record against Medvedev to 2-1. “I’m really happy with my game [now], so well see what [happens next].”