“It’s an unbelievable feeling, first time main draw, first time semis,” Karatsev said.
The victory meant Karatsev, 27, became the first man to reach a grand slam semi-final on debut and continued a stunning run where he had already seen off eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, first time main draw, first time semis.”
He is only the fifth qualifier to reach the last four of a men’s major in the open era. It could yet be an all-Russian final as his ATP Cup teammates Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will meet in a quarter-final on Wednesday.
“I try not to think about it, I just look at the next match,” Karatsev said.
It was a bitter blow for Dimitrov. The Bulgarian had been in excellent touch in the first set.
Karatsev may have had the early break but Dimitrov broke back and lifted the intensity, breaking again soon after, taking a 4-2 lead behind his all-court game. Karatsev did not do himself any favours with 17 unforced errors in the opening seven matches, as he fell behind 5-2. These continued in what proved to be the deciding game when a backhand into the net by Karatsev handed his opponent the set in 33 minutes.
Dimitrov typically enjoys being a front-runner for it allows him to remain aggressive. His intention was clear in the opening game of the second set which he won to love but, in searing heat, this contest lifted a gear – and Karatsev found his groove.
Sensing this contest was slipping away, Karatsev saved five break points to hold serve in the second game of the set. He soon had the advantage when he broke Dimitrov, the latter capping a poor game with a wild smash volley that went long. Yet, as he had done in the first set, Karatsev immediately relinquished this advantage.
He contjnued to fight and had another break point at 40-30 to take a 5-4 lead only for the scrambling Dimitrov to hustle through a 15-shot point and force deuce. But another opportunity came and Dimitrov wilted, giving his opponent a chance to serve for the set. Karatsev had three set points and needed only one to complete the job.
It was Karatsev who scored the early break in the third set, a cracking double-handed backhand across court securing a 2-1 lead. Dimitrov began to wilt in the 30-degree heat and even opted to not sit down at the change of ends at a time he physically began to experience problems. Karatsev, this time, held serve, his forehand increasingly becoming a weapon.
Dimitrov’s next service game – the fifth of the set – was bewildering, for he appeared to give up and had even began leaving the court before Karatsev’s winning return had flown by.
“He’s done … there is no drive now out of the legs. There is not much point playing like this,” former Australian player Todd Woodbridge said during Nine’s commentary.
Trailing 1-5, Dimitrov could barely serve out the final game of the set, and again trudged from the court before his opponent had completed the winning return to confirm a 2-1 sets lead.
Dimitrov then had a medical time out, his afternoon all but over.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.