The New Guy at the Australian Open

Aslan Karatsev, the Russian about to play Djokovic in the semis of the Australian Open has produced a run vaguely reminiscent of John McEnroe’s journey at 18 from the qualifying rounds to the semis in the 1977 Wimbledon. John has since revealed that he did not know if he was that good or they were that bad. John would have some comeback problems now, having turned 62 today.

Perhaps Aslan, 27, is just a late bloomer. You do recall the late blooming Stan Wawrinka winning the big one thrice. Karatsev not only beat Diego Schwartzman but he did so in straight sets. He beat Felix Auger-Aliasseme from two sets to none down. These are quality players.

Although Grigor Dimitrov had back problems in the quarterfinal match, aches tend to arise when you are getting beat, as happened in the second set of their match. Dimitrov certainly sang Aslan’s praises after the match.

Daniil Medvedev calls him the Russian, secret weapon. The secret is out.

Practicing with quality, Russian players like Andrey Rublev and Medvedev may be almost as effective as ATP, slam competition. Those two Russians will meet at 8 pm, Pacific Time in their quarterfinal match.

Like Djokovic, Karatsev keeps the ball deep, returns beautifully and places his serve well. Every ounce of the pressure will be on Djokovic in the semi. Who knows?