Karen Khachanov advanced to his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday night after Sebastian Korda retired in the third set of their Australian Open matchup with a right-wrist injury. The 18th seed was leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0 after winning seven straight games following a medical timeout for the American midway through set two.
Khachanov clinched a hard-fought opening set with a daring backhand winner, regrouping with a strong tie-break after failing to serve out the set at 5-3. He then saw three break points go begging early in the second as he stayed on top with his consistent baseline game.
“For sure, back-to-back semi-finals in a Grand Slam feels great,” Khachanov said in an on-court interview. “Obviously not the way you want to finish the match. I think until a certain point it was very competitive, a very good battle. Sebastian beat one of my friends, Daniil [Medvedev], in three sets and won in five sets against Hurkacz. He is playing great tennis.
“I’m feeling good, to be honest. I’m really happy about my level, about the way I compete, and looking forward to the semi-finals here in Australia for the first time.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2023
Korda received a medical timeout and had his wrist taped at 3-2 in the second set, and he struggled to control his forehand once he returned to court in Rod Laver Arena as Khachanov quickly extended his lead. The American’s retirement was the first in the men’s singles draw this tournament.
“I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago, but then it went away,” Korda said of his injury. “During the matches, it was completely fine. Then just one kind of mishit return [early in the second set], and it started to bother me a lot of after that.”
He later added: “Some forehands I couldn’t even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.”
Khachanov, by reaching the Melbourne quarters, became the 10th active male player and the 50th in the Open Era to reach that stage at all four Grand Slams. He has now won his past two major quarter-finals after his run to the semis at the 2022 US Open.
“I think I kind of reinvented myself,” he said of his recent form, more than three years after he reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 8 in 2019. “I always believe in myself but there are always ups and downs, and sometimes when you have a great result it just shows you what you are capable of and then you start to believe more and more.
“This belief and self-confidence I think appeared much stronger after the US Open. I made a few semi-finals already so I hope to continue that way and to grow as a person and as a sportsman.”
Khachanov will seek his first Grand Slam final when he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas or Jiri Lehecka, with that quarter-final set for Tuesday evening in Rod Laver Arena.
Korda, playing in his first major quarter-final, was bidding to improve to 4-0 against Top 20 opponents at the Australian Open. Instead, he fell to 14-15 against such players in his tour-level career. The American is now on the brink of becoming a Top 20 player himself, as he has moved up six places this fortnight to No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, setting himself up for a new career high.
Khachanov’s semi-final run has lifted him seven places to No. 13 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He can rise as high as No. 7 with the title.
The ATP Head2Head between Khachanov and Korda is now level at 2-2, with both of Khachanov’s victories coming at majors, including a five-set win at Wimbledon in 2021.