February 16, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
A. KARATSEV/G. Dimitrov
2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Have you been in touch with people back home? How many messages did you get after your win today?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Yeah, I got some -- around 200, something like this, messages on WhatsApp. Yeah, I think it's going to be more.
Q. I mean no disrespect by this question, but who are you and where did you come from? Did you grow up in -- I heard you grew up in Israel. Is your family Jewish? We know so little about you. If you could just tell us some things about yourself and your childhood.
ASLAN KARATSEV: I'm born in Russia, city of Vladikavkaz. I moved to Israel when I was three years old with my family and then I started to practice in there, in I Yafo, Tel Aviv-Yafo. I think you know it. And then I grew up there, practicing there until 12 years old, and then I moved back to Russia with my father. Then I was living in Rostov, next city to Rostov, Taganrog, and I found a sponsor there. I was practicing there until 18 years old, then I started practicing in Moscow. Then I started to work with Tursunov, and then they said like, okay, I will help you to move to Germany to practice in Germany in Halle. I was there two years, and yeah, then I moved to Barcelona, practicing there, and then the last three years, almost three years, I'm working with Yahor Yatsyk, my coach, in Belarus, in Minsk. There is a fitness coach, also, Luis from Portugal, so we're working together almost three years, and yeah.
Q. Your family are Russian Jews?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Yes, my grandfather from my mom's side, yes.
Q. So you are clearly a man of the world, but what kept you going? Was it just the pure enjoyment of what you do? Did you ever wonder if what's happened to you here would ever happen?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Of course I'm thinking about it will happen. Of course it's amazing that I passed to semifinal from qualifying, qualification. I'm just trying to enjoy the moment and not thinking about that too much and playing from round to round.
Q. It sounds like you've sacrificed greatly to become better at tennis, moving many times. Did it ever seem like it wasn't worth it?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Can you repeat, please?
Q. You've moved a lot to try to become better at tennis. At any point did it seem like it was not worth all of this trouble?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Yes, I was moving I would say too much. In the end I found a coach, as I said, his name, Yahor Yatsyk, and this is the right guy for me. He's helped me a lot, more mental part, and then of course there is the technical stuff, as well.
But yeah, I like to work with him. We're living in Minsk. We're practicing there, so yeah.
Q. 12 months ago you're probably watching Novak Djokovic lift the trophy again. Where were you and did you think you could be one match away from possibly -- two wins away from possibly doing the same thing?
ASLAN KARATSEV: Of course not. I mean, four months ago I was 100-something, 116th, and my first step was okay, I will try to go to top 100 by the end of the year 2020, and it didn't happen. So I said, okay, from the beginning, my first step was to be top 100. So that was my thought.
Q. At what point did you realize that Grigor was not 100 percent?
ASLAN KARATSEV: In the third set. So the first set I was really tight, and I went out to the court with a good feeling, and during the first set I felt like too much unforced errors, just rushing too much. And then the second set I was trying to play with him to see -- to go less with unforced. Yeah, I took his break, I closed the set, and then in the third set I think I felt already the -- I think it was the back.
Q. You'd be surprised to learn he said he could barely put his socks on before the match because of the spasms he was experiencing.
ASLAN KARATSEV: I thought he would be ready to play the fourth set because after the medical I thought he will be better. But no.
Q. Do you think you can win the tournament at this point? You've won five matches right now. You've won some of them in dominating fashion. Do you think you can win the tournament?
ASLAN KARATSEV: We will see. I mean, how can I say -- okay, we will see. Match by match, so yeah.
Q. Will you describe how your belief in yourself has evolved? And also in general what you've learned about yourself through the different countries you've been in, through your experiences, including at this tournament?
ASLAN KARATSEV: You mean the different countries where I was practicing?
Q. Yes, practicing and living.
ASLAN KARATSEV: We work a lot with the coach. As I said, the mental part, to more believe in yourself and to believe the game that I played. We work on this a lot.
Q. How has your belief in yourself evolved to where you are now, two matches away from winning a major?
ASLAN KARATSEV: I try to believe every match what I'm doing on the court, and it's helped me to win matches. Okay, I arrive to the court and say, okay, I try to do my best, and with more belief. I would describe like that.
Q. What is the most difficult part of playing against a player who is injured?
ASLAN KARATSEV: To stay focused on your game I would say because there was a moment in the fourth set, like I was giving too much free points on his serve. Instead of just putting the ball in he was not moving anymore. I would say like that.
Q. When you look back at the victories from this year, especially in Melbourne, what are the key reasons behind your breakthrough in your career?
ASLAN KARATSEV: I think the key is to find the right team, the right coach that I found. I was really lucky to find him, and we just met in one tournament. I played futures, and we were saying, okay, let's try to work together, and it's really -- I think it's a big luck that we start to work together and I have a good team around me. And yeah.
Q. I'd like to know did you ever doubt about yourself? Did you ever think, oh, maybe I should stop because I'm 25 and I don't make it, I'm not in the top 100? I would like to know when was the most difficult time for you and you thought maybe I shouldn't play, if there was?
ASLAN KARATSEV: There was a time when I was injured that was a difficult time for me because I recovered after the injury, and then 2017 started, and I start to play again, and again, I felt the knee, and I said, whoa. I quit again for two and a half months, almost three, and I think this is the most difficult part.
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