Is Karatsev the Next Wawrinka?

AP/ Hamish Blair, file

Is Karatsev the Next Wawrinka?

Aslan Karatsev has stunned the tennis world, coming out of nowhere to reach the Australian Open semifinals and now taking the prestigious Dubai title. His two-month run has no parallel. It is extremely unusual for a player that has resided outside the top 100 for the majority of his career to all of a sudden rise through the rankings with such ease at 27 years of age. However, if one looks a little deeper, it starts making a little more sense. Unfortunately, for Karatsev, he’s had plenty of issues with starts and restarts due to injury. The game has always been there, he’s just never had the time to settle into a rhythm.

He’s now been healthy for a couple of years and he’s full of confidence. It didn’t happen overnight though. Karatsev has put in the work, playing in futures tournaments and then the challenger circuit before his jump to qualifying for the Australian Open, and now having direct entry to ATP level tournaments for the foreseeable future.

His game and success at a later age remind me a lot of Wawrinka’s trajectory. Although, let’s not forget that Wawrinka was a staple in the top 20 before he made his move into a Grand Slam winner and top-five player for three consecutive years. Much like Karatsev though, Wawrinka struggled with consistency in his career. Much like Karatsev, Wawrinka has the ability to blow you off the court with his sheer power from both wings.

Much like Karatsev, Wawrinka’s fortunes changed at 27 years of age. He went from a top 20 player to ending the year as number 8 in the world in 2013 and never looked back. Wawrinka found a new gear mentally in 2013 and was able to harness that mental strength and sheer confidence into three grand slam titles, beating the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer.

I’m not saying Grand Slams are on the horizon for Karatsev. More ATP 500 titles definitely are. In the last two months, he’s beaten four top 20 players, Schwartzman, Auger Aliassime, Dimitrov, and Rublev. If he can continue to beat these high-caliber players, he’ll clean up at the 250 and 500 level, where there’s only a couple of top players participating at any given time.

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