Aslan Karatsev burst onto the tennis scene in 2021. At the 2021 Australian Open, Karatsev’s first appearance in a Grand Slam tournament, he made it to the semifinals. As a qualifier, he had to play well in the preceding qualifying tournament just to make the draw — and he became the second qualifier in history to make it to the Australian Open semifinals, the fifth qualifier to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in the so-called Open Era (beginning in 1968), and the first male player to reach the semifinals in his Grand Slam debut. His Cinderella run ended with a loss to no. 1 seed and eventual champion Novak Djokovic, but he cemented himself as a rising tennis star.
Karatsev, 27, went from world no. 253 to the top 30. And he’s just getting started. Here are 18 things to know about Aslan Karatsev, the Russian-born, Israeli-raised tennis player.
1. Aslan Karatsev was born in September 1993 in Vladikavkaz, near Russia’s border with Georgia. His dad, Kazbek, is an ethnic Ossetian, and his mom, Svetlana, has a Jewish father. He has an older sister, Zarina. Here they are in 2019:
2. When he was 3 years old, his parents moved his family to Israel. His mom is a doctor, and his dad played soccer before focusing on his son’s tennis career.
3. “Walking home from the beach [near Tel Aviv] one day, the family noticed a tennis centre and took his sister, Zarina, to play. ‘By the time I was four, I was trying to take the racquet away from her and start to play on the wall,'” Karatsev recalls. “My sister quit after two years, and then I started. All the attention went from my father to me. I started to practise seriously when I was six or seven. I already had a morning session, fitness session and I became No. 1 in Israel. That’s how it started.”
4. He won the Israeli Youth Championship in 2005.
5. However, lack of funding from the Israel tennis federation made it difficult for Karatsev to pursue a tennis career, and when he was 12, his family made the tough decision for him and his dad to move back to Russia.
6. “It was difficult to move away from your mother and sister when you are only 12. I flew back to Israel a couple of times in the first few months to visit them. But I took the chance because I found a sponsor in Russia,” Karatsev says.
7. “My father put all his energy into my tennis. He would go with me every morning. But it was tough to travel from Israel and the flights were really expensive. The federation would help with two or three tickets a year, but it wasn’t enough,” Karatsev says.
8. He moved to Rostov, Russia, for better training, then Moscow. From there it was on to Halle, Germany, and Barcelona, Spain, before finally ending up in Minsk, Belarus, where he lives today. “I was moving around too much,” he said.
9. Though he hasn’t lived in Israel full-time for 15 years, Karatsev still has an Israeli passport and speaks fluent Hebrew. His mom and sister still live in Holon, Israel; here’s a lovely snap of Aslan returning home in 2018 to visit Zarina and his mom.
(His sister spells their last name “Kartzev” and Aslan spells it “Karatsev,” but it’s the same in Hebrew — קראצב.)
10. “I always have fun being in Israel when I come back, it feels like home, my mom and sister are there, I don’t think I would have left Israel,” Karatsev said.
(Random fun side note: In 2018, Karatsev trained at the Ilan Sports Center in Kiryat Haim, Israel, for what seems like a couple hours. Here’s a video ad he made with them in Hebrew. They now love posting about him on Facebook.)
11. The Australian Jewish news reported that in September, Amir Weintraub, an Israeli tennis player, and Avi Peretz, chair of the Israel Tennis Association, tried to convince Karatsev to play internationally for Israel. But Karatsev had already signed on to compete with Russia in the Davis Cup tournament, which pits teams of players representing different countries against each other, Olympics style.
12. Now, Karatsev represents Russia internationally — including at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, where he’s set to play singles. “We really want to play at the Olympic Games, to represent the country (Russia),” Karatsev’s coach Yegor Yatsyk said.
13. His Instagram handle is @karatsev93, because he was born in 1993, naturally. He’s a Virgo, if you were wondering. He doesn’t post a lot, but there are some gems:
This seems to be his dog:
Aslan Karatsev: great at tennis, mediocre (at best) at Instagram.
14. In his official ATP bio, it says “chocolate is his guilty pleasure” and he “considers himself to be a dog-lover.” (Same, and same, Aslan.)
15. He also loves a hashtag. See: “#Very #goodday in #newjersey”:
“#Barcelona #Sunday #dayoff”:
16. Aslan Karatsev is single, according to his Facebook relationship status. His Facebook profile photo is a shirtless selfie, so, hello. (Also, Aslan, you are famous now, maybe put yourself on private if this Facebook is indeed you!!)
17. At the 2021 French Open, Karatsev played mixed doubles with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, with an eye to the Olympics. They made it to the finals.
Vesnina and Karastev may play mixed doubles in the Olympics.
18. We will leave you with this delightfully wholesome video of Aslan skateboarding with a dog:
Bonus: A custom Aslan Karatsev trading card, just for you!!