Aslan Karatsev has made the biggest jump in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings to start this season, and the 27-year-old looks set to keep climbing. Making his Miami Open presented by Itau debut as the No. 17 seed, Karatsev defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday.
Contesting his first main draw match at an ATP Masters 1000 event, Karatsev broke serve four times and turned around an early deficit to win in an hour and 20 minutes. Into the third round, Karatsev awaits the winner between Sebastian Korda and 10th seed Fabio Fognini.
“It was a really tough, tight match. To play your first match against Kukushkin is not easy, he’s a tough opponent,” Karatsev said in an on-court interview. “The courts are more slow here compared to last week in Dubai, so you have to adjust. The first match is always tough, but I found a way to beat him.”
Karatsev ended last season at No. 112 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he’s burst into the Top 30 after a stunning first three months of 2021. The Russian turned heads when he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open as a qualifier, and backed it up by winning his first ATP Tour title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“Of course it gives me confidence to win my first title, but you arrive here and it’s a different surface and new tournament,” Karatsev said. “So you try [to think of it] as a new tournament and new place, but of course it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Karatsev owns a 13-2 record on the season, with his only two losses so far coming at the hands of Top 4 opponents Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.