With Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev facing off in an all-Russian quarterfinal in Melbourne on Wednesday, Russia are guaranteed two semifinalists at the Australian Open men's singles event this fortnight.
On Tuesday, World No. 114 Aslan Karatsev continued his giant-killing run by knocking out No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov in four sets to reach the semis. And while there is still some way to go for any of Rublev, Medvedev or Karatsev to win the Australian Open, Yevgeny Kafelnikov believes a Russian man will emerge as a Grand Slam champion sooner rather than later.
Kafelnikov is a former World No. 1, and the first Russian player to win a Grand Slam singles title. He won the French Open in 1996, before also claiming the Australian Open in 1999.
Marat Safin then followed in Yevgeny Kafelnikov's footsteps, winning the 2000 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open. No Russian male player has won a Grand Slam singles title since then, but Kafelnikov is confident it will happen soon.
"We all know that it’s inevitable that they’re (Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev) going to win a Slam,” Kafelnikov said in an interview with the ATP Tour. “It’s a question of when and where.”
“To be honest, I would be happy if one of those guys or even both of them (Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev) surpass me in terms of number of titles and weeks at No. 1 in the world," Kafelnikov added. "I’d be happy. I’m not going to be jealous about it. My career was very successful, and hopefully they will have even better [careers].”
"I'm very happy for Aslan Karatsev finally getting his breakthrough" - Yevgeny Kafelnikov
Aslan Karatsev was part of the Russian squad, alongside Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Evgeny Donskoy, which lifted the ATP Cup earlier this month.
Given Daniil Medevdev's exploits at the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals coupled with Andrey Rublev's haul of five titles in 2020, the impressive form of the two highest-ranked Russians this year hasn't been surprising. But no one in their wildest dreams would have predicted Aslan Karatsev's giant-killing run in Melbourne.
Karatsev is the first man in the Open Era to reach the semis on his Grand Slam debut. The 27-year-old is also the second qualifier to ever reach the last four at the Australian Open.
This is also only the fifth time that a qualifier has reached a men’s semifinal at a Grand Slam in the Open Era, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov expressed both surprise and satisfaction at the breakthrough run.
"It was really expected that two of them (Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev) got to where they are," Kafelnikov said. "The third one is a big surprise, but a very happy surprise. I’m very happy for Aslan, finally getting his breakthrough."