Can Botic van de Zandschulp Be The Next Aslan Karatsev?

Botic van de Zandschulp in action at the US Open.

Amidst the breakthrough runs of teenage stars such as Carlos Alcaraz and Emma Raducanu, the 25-year-old Botic van de Zandschulp has fashioned a breakthrough of his own by making the quarterfinals on his US Open debut. The Dutchman now finds himself opening the day session on Arthur Ashe Stadium against second seed Daniil Medvedev. But how did van de Zandschulp get here?

Van de Zandschulp began his US Open journey as the sixth seed in qualifying and had a pretty bumpy run, having to come back from a set down against each of Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera, Ben Shelton and Enzo Couacaud. After struggling through qualifying, it was no great surprise seeing van de Zandschulp down two sets to love against Carlos Taberner in the opening round. But things have turned around remarkably since.

Van de Zandschulp rallied to a five-set win against the Spaniard which he then followed up with a shocking upset over eighth seed Casper Ruud. Ruud came into the US Open in good form with three titles from July and two Masters 1000 quarterfinals, so such an early exit in New York was certainly not expected.

Van de Zandschulp was probably not expecting to be the favorite in a third-round match in his maiden US Open either, but that’s the position he found himself in against Facundo Bagnis. The Dutchman held his nerve and won in four sets, setting up a fourth-round clash with Bagnis’ countryman, the eleventh seed Diego Schwartzman. Van de Zandschulp prevailed against the odds again, defeating Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 5-7 5-7 6-1, making this a career-changing tournament for the 25-year-old.

As a not-so-young newcomer who established himself on the Challenger Tour, van de Zandschulp has understandably attracted plenty of comparisons with Aslan Karatsev. The Russian’s rise was more sudden, as he reached three Challenger finals in a row after the season restarted, winning two of them, before breaking through at Grand Slam-level with his run to the semifinals at this year’s Australian Open.

The Russian then showed he belonged on the main tour with good results until the French Open when his results dipped and performances dipped over the course of a disappointing summer. Van de Zandschulp’s efforts at this US Open do have some similarities with Karatsev’s run in Melbourne, but the Dutchman has been nowhere as dominant on the Challenger Tour as the Russian was.

Van de Zandschulp has had a good season, reaching a final and three semifinals on the Challenger Tour in addition to his upset win over Hubert Hurkacz at the French Open, but he has not yet posted results to match Karatsev’s and only time will tell if he can enjoy similar future successes as the Russian. Still, van de Zandschulp will be a fixture on the main tour for at least the next 12 months

But before any of that for van de Zandschulp is a quarterfinal against Medvedev. Yet another shocking win is very unlikely considering how gruelling the journey has been for the qualifier compared with Medvedev, who is yet to drop a set in New York. Of course, stranger things have happened on a tennis court, but the Russian has looked very formidable so far this fortnight.

But win or lose in the quarterfinals, van de Zandschulp is currently 62nd in the live rankings. That means that he will have a year to establish himself on the main tour before having the threat of dropping back down to the Challenger Tour at the 2022 US Open with his post-US Open ranking guaranteeing him entry to almost any tournament at tour-level.

The Dutchman has also already doubled his career prize money with this run, earning $450,000 by making it to the quarterfinals. This should give van de Zandschulp financial security he might not have had with his Challenger earnings and will enable him to expand his team should he wish to.

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