This year’s Australian Open, which started under a cloud of sharpness and played in echoing, empty arenas, was sorely lacking in glamor. We should be grateful to three record-breaking Russians for the lack of magic.

Novak Djokovic warned that he might not make it through week two of the tournament. Medics could have been forgiven for mistakenly visiting Rafael Nadal during a game after constantly whispering about his fitness, despite insisting that they had the court and not a false assumption.

Dominic Thiem knocked out the clown prince Nick Kyrgios – a character who, with all his sloppy emotional incontinence, could at least have played the pantomime villain if he had made it to the final stages – before leaving himself after being physically below average was.

Alex Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have made it to the quarterfinals, but the “Next Gen” tags, which they have had for at least two years, barely give them a hint of attraction as they make their final attempts to justify the hype by themselves stand out from a top. win three players and a Grand Slam.

Karatsev defeated Auger-Aliassime in the 4R of the #AusOpen with 3: 6: 1: 6: 6: 6: 6: 6: 4. The highest available odds for Karatsev were +1600 live via FanDuel. Score with offered odds: Auger-Aliassime * 6 6 0 [15]Karatsev 3 1 0 [0]

– UpsetOdds (@UpsetOdds) February 14, 2021

As welcome as it is for fans to see tennis at its finest in these weirdest situations ever, the Russian revival blooming in Melbourne is a tremendous relief to organizers and spectators who were hoping this could be a tournament overcome one’s constraints and stimulate the imagination.

There are a couple of fairy tales in the women’s draw, among the top Seeds and Serena headlines. The best of them is Hsieh Su-Wei, the 35-year-old who made his quarterfinals debut as the oldest professional of the Open era.

Hsieh pragmatically predicted that former Master Naomi Osaka would “smash” her. Osaka was almost certainly sincere when she admitted she wasn’t looking forward to taking on the joyfully unpredictable veteran. But the two players who least want to play against each other on Tuesday – and the much-needed David versus Goliath – have the lowest man by a mile again.

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Aslan Karatsev doesn’t seem like the kind of character to admit it, but he will certainly be devastated if his tournament ends now. After the 27-year-old defeated Diego Schwartzman, the ninth world champion, in straight sets and played three qualifying games in Doha just to get in the gate, he did a pretty easy job with Felix Auger Aliassime, the 20th seed won the last three sets of her game in the fourth round on a routine basis.

On the other side of the court, Grigor Dimitrov must know that regardless of the outcome, he is unlikely to show up with a lot of credit. The 19th seed prevailed against the battered Thiem and is the lowest ranked opponent that Karatsev could have faced at this point in time. Without neutrals, he wanted to reach a semi-finals with Djokovic, to whom he lost nine out of ten games, including his last seven.

Tennis players’ social media accounts are usually as dull and unfathomable as a day delayed by rain. Dimitrovs is usually based on endorsements for the eyes of his Instagram following of nearly a million.

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There may be close-ups of branded watches and multivitamin drinks in the near future, but Karatsevs is unknowingly refreshing for the time being: his Twitter following of just over 1,000 late last week was less than some of his casual fans, and a photo with his dog that before almost a year when his latest Instagram photo was taken, works almost perfectly against the highly stylized trademarks of the mega-famous.

Karatsev exudes a slightly naive charm and reserve that seems to be a product of his previous history. His successful career has never threatened the peak of the elite and he switched coaches, had an injury break and did not play for months after starting in the world at 263 last year.

The reluctant support act could probably have sneaked out without anyone noticing, while Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev were in the media spotlight after winning the Russian ATP Cup earlier this month, despite gleefully calling it their secret weapon, after their supremacy as a single player meant that he was not required for decisive action.

Journalists who were after a soundbite from Karatsev after his victory over Aliassime were largely frustrated. So far there have only been a few superlatives that could have contributed to his sensational results. As a result, he tended to grapple with confused shrugs, shy smiles, and factual considerations about his “amazing” run.

The top ten stars Medvedev and Ruble are also not going to be lyrical in the style of Djokovic, Nadal or Federer. Part-time pop star Rublev surprised fans and an interviewer with the unusual move of politely returning a request about his day in court, and Medvedev has labeled the Serb and Spaniard as the Messi and Ronaldo of the modern game.

When the two friends and compatriots meet in the quarter-finals, they will rekindle a rivalry that began when, as Rublev put it, they were “crazy” juniors who smashed thugs on the pitch to propel each other and gain position reach you are in now.

This remained clear when Rublev raged against his racket at this stage of the US Open last year, attacking a banana during his third of three losses to Medvedev. If the senior Medvedev does it again, he could resume hostilities with Tsitsipas, whom he memorably told to “shut up” after the Greek reported less than “Bullsh * t Russian” during a game than before two years.

Whoever gets to the last four, the way these players made history by getting Russians to a Grand Slam quarter-finals was the act that this muted tournament took. If the highlights in a year depend on the hotel’s quarantine videos and players worried about recovery times, this is evidence of a grand slam that was barely worth it.

The most unlikely member of the trio has already guaranteed that the word “unprecedented” won’t just be used to refer to unused seats and tiny followers. John McEnroe and Vladimir Voltchkov made it to the Wimbledon semifinals as qualifiers 23 years apart, and underdog Filip Dewulf was two wins from fame in Paris in 1997, but these feel like weak comparisons.

Perhaps the man who knows the most about the extent of Karatsev’s task will be in the world’s number one box if he faces it later this week. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wildcard in 2001. He will be aware that Djokovic’s dominance did not affect tennis’s ability to deliver such shocks.

By Ben Miller

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