The remarkable run of Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev at the Australian Open ended in the semifinals when he was defeated in Melbourne by the Serbian world champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
The unset Karatsev had defied the chances of becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach the last four on his debut in a Grand Slam but fell behind against Djokovic despite battling the eight-time champion.
Djokovic prevailed 6: 3, 6: 4, 6: 2 against the winner in the Rod Laver Arena and will face either the Russian Daniil Medwedew or the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday, while the Serb has an 18th Grand- Slam title wins.
Karatsev, 27, had been the story of the Melbourne tournament as he headed for an unlikely semi-final meeting with Djokovic with his low rank on the world no.114 for qualifying and scalp, including eighth seeds Diego Schwartzman, had qualified.
After fans were back in the stands in Melbourne after a five-day Covid-19 ban, many hoped that Karatsev could continue his exploits and possibly cause one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.
The Russian held his own in the opening exchanges when the first seven games went to serve before Djokovic took control to interrupt game eight and then led the set.
The Serb appeared to be sailing in the second set as he secured a double service break, despite Karatsev showing spirit by breaking world number one for the first time in the game to give him new hope.
The Russian then earned two breakpoints on the Djokovic serve only to see them beg when the Serb finally took over the set.
In an eventful third set, Djokovic dropped out early to open a 2-0 lead, only Karatsev fell back when he was out to stay in the game.
But Djokovic found his own answer to break his rival twice more. He showed the urgency to get rid of the brave underdog when he played the set 6-2 and thus booked a place in another final Down Under.
Despite his defeat, Karatsev, who was born in Vladikavkaz, had an unforgettable time in Melbourne and will now enter the top 50 in the world for the first time in his career.
He will also leave Australia with a tidy $ 662,000 in prize money – more than his total career profit of around $ 618,000 before joining this year’s tournament.