Aslan Karatsev: This Week’s Player To Watch (March 17-23)

Russia's Aslan Karatsev celebrates
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Every week, LastWordOnTennis will highlight a player to keep an eye on as tournaments are played around the world. This week’s selection is Aslan Karatsev.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships have begun this week. Dubai is an ATP 500 event that always sports some big names. Though Roger Federer and Andy Murray both pulled out earlier this month, players like Dominic Thiem, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, and Milos Raonic lead a strong field.

Among them is a wild card entry that would have looked completely out of place before 2021. Aslan Karatsev, an inspired player riding the wave of recent Russian success by making a surprise run to the Australian Open semifinals, has been awarded another wild card entry, following his appearance in Doha last week. Here are the reasons why the World #42 earned his wild card, and why he is this week’s player to watch.

Karatsev is finding form later in his career

It almost goes without saying but anyone that has made a Grand Slam semifinal in the last couple of months is in-form. He beat three Top 30 players in a row Down Under. His best win, in terms of ranking, before the Australian Open was against World #48 Tennys Sandgren. He followed that up with a respectable three-set defeat to Dominic Thiem in Doha, and some impressive wins over Egor Gerasimov and Dan Evans this week in Dubai.

Bizarrely, however, Aslan Karatsev is finding the form of his life at 27 years old. Only a couple of years ago, Karatsev went on a losing streak of 11 matches, so he has had to grit his teeth at times in his career. To see a journeyman finally reaping rewards is inspiring.

Comfortable moving forward

Last week, Karatsev was able to win his first ATP title in Doha. However, he didn’t win it alone. Karatsev paired up with Andrey Rublev to win four consecutive matches against some veteran doubles pairings.

Karatsev has translated this doubles success to the singles court. In his win against Evans, Karatsev showed his skillful transition game and pulled off some sublime volleys in important moments, particularly at the tail end of the third set. He may not be the best the game has seen in the forecourt, but–on a tour littered with one-dimensional baseliners–sometimes it is refreshing to watch a player who is comfortable moving forward.

Ridiculous returns

Karatsev utilizes a return that is rarely attempted by other players.

When the opponent serves out wide in the deuce court to the forehand, Karatsev will often hit an extremely sharp-angled return. It may look like a mistake, but Karatsev has pulled it off enough times now for it to be a purposeful shot. The return is unique and extremely satisfying to watch.

This Week’s Player To Watch

With his sharp forecourt play and his magnificent return of serve, Aslan Karatsev is an entertaining player to watch. Along with these points, the Russian is capable of taking the racket out of anyone’s hands. His powerful baseline game is sure to astound viewers that tune in to his matches.

His next match against Lorenzo Sonego will be a cracker and he should win provided he is playing well. He continues his run Wednesday afternoon in Dubai.

Main Photo from Getty.