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Australian’s love an underdog.
We even love an underdog more if it’s at the Australian Open.
One of the best parts of Grand Slam Tennis is when a player makes a run out of nowhere and suddenly finds themselves playing at the business end of the tournament.
We’ve looked back at some of the runs since 1990 from players that came out of nowhere, starting with the men’s draw.
To qualify for this list the player simply had to make a run that was perhaps their first in a long time or just their first one full stop and upset one of the big names on the way.
Aslan Karatsev (2021 Semi-Final)
The fairytale of this year’s tournament is without doubt Russian Aslan Karatsev.
The qualifier became the first man in the Open era to reach the semifinal on a Grand Slam debut after a 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 upset win over an injury-saddled Grigor Dimitrov.
Karasev now becomes the second qualifier to reach the final four at the Australian Open, and the fifth qualifier to reach a men’s semifinal in the Open Area.
Prior to the 2021 Australian Open, Karastev had just three ATP-level victories since 2015.
Lucas Pouille (2019 Quarter-Final)
The little known Frenchman at the time was close to giving up a two-sets-to-love lead against Australian Alexei Popyrin in the third round of the 2019 Aussie Open, only to find himself in a semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic.
He would then go on to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final with a7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 win over 16th seed Milos Raonic in the qualifier.
Pouille was in the world’s top 20 in 2016 after he reached the last eight at Wimbledon and the US Open, however, after a tough year in 2018 and failed to progress in any of the majors.
He would go do convincingly to Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 6-2 in just 83-minutes.
Mischa Zverev (2017 Quarter Final)
Zverev had built a solid career but had never made an impact before his run last year.
Prior to that, he had made one ATP final losing to Giles Simon in France in last 2010.
Things started off with a smooth first-round win before drawing 19th seed John Isner.
It was a marathon five-setter with the first, second and fourth all going to tiebreakers and the fifth ending 9-7 in the German’s favour.
A fourth-round clash with top-seeded Andy Murray produced the upset of the tournament with Zverev winning in four sets.
By this stage, he was playing with house money going two rounds further than his previous best Grand Slam effort.
From there the underdog story ended with a straight-sets loss to Roger Federer in the quarter-final.
Jeremy Chardy (2013 Quarter-Final)
It took plenty of work but for the unseeded Chardy, the Australian Open that year was a standout performance that remains his most successful Grand Slam run.
After getting through the first round against a qualifier, he then upset three seeded players including Juan Martin del Potro before running into eventual finalist Andy Murray who dispatched him in straight sets.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2008 Final)
While we may know the name Jo-Wilfried Tsonga now, when he made his run to 2008 final he was an up and coming player with plenty of energy. What should, by all accounts, have been a very quick campaign for him when drawn against Andy Murray in the first round.
Tsonga sprung an upset which started a memorable fortnight for him.
He battled through to the fourth round where fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet stood in his way.
A back and forth contest ensued and Tsonga progressed to the quarter-finals where he blitzed Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets.
His biggest moment, however, came in the semi-finals when he ran second seed, Rafael Nadal, off the court.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish the job in the final as Novak Djokovic won his first Australian Open.
Marcos Baghdatis (2006 Final)
The other unseeded player to reach the men’s Australian Open Final since 1990 was Marcos Baghdatis who gave Roger Federer his best shot before ultimately going down in four sets.
His path to the final was memorable with a pro-Cypriot crowd providing an unbelievable atmosphere.
That run was almost ended in the second round after he almost blew a two-set lead to Radek Stepanek however Baghdatis rallied in the fifth set to get home.
Second seed Andy Roddick was his round four opponent and Baghdatis came up big to win in four sets as plenty of people got behind him.
A pair of five-setters against Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian sent him to the final and after claiming the first set against Federer, it was the end of the story as Federer romped home.
Wayne Ferreira (1992 & 2003 Semi-Final)
Ferreira will always have fond memories of the Australian Open making two appearances in the final four coming at opposite ends of his career.
In 1992 the unseeded South African kick-started his career upsetting Karel Novacek in the second round and John McEnroe in the quarters before Stefan Edberg ended his run.
Eleven years later he would return to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park having endured a rough 2002 where his ranking dropped to 63 and he was sitting around 40 going into the tournament.
His first-round win over Tommy Robredo gave him the 26th seed’s path through the tournament.
His next big test was against Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarter-finals but the South African came through in straight sets.
A debut Grand Slam final appearance would be just out of reach however as Andre Agassi won their semi in straight sets.
Chris Woodruff (2000 Quarter-Final)
You could be forgiven if the home fans were not huge fans of Woodruff’s run to the quarter-finals in 2000 given he knocked out two locals on the way. In the second round, it was wild card James Sekulov and Richard Fromberg in the third, both in straight sets.
Having only reached the third round in Grand Slams before this, the fourth round was unchartered territory and 11th seed Tim Henman would not make it easy, however, Woodruff found a way past Britain’s great hope in five sets.
Pete Sampras would prove to be a step too far however with the third seed winning the quarter-final easily.
Mark Woodforde (1996 Semi-Final)
Mark Woodforde being in the semi-final of a Grand Slam is not a rarity, him being there in the singles draw certainly is however and were it not for a pesky German named Boris Becker, he would have made the final.
His campaign started off in easy fashion when his first-round opponent Shuzo Matsuoka retired after three games.
A fourth round, an all-Australian matchup with Mark Philippoussis, who had just beaten Pete Sampras, went the way of Woodforde in straight sets.
Swede Thomas Enqvist was his quarter-final victim before Becker stepped things up in the semi-final and continued on his path to the title.
Aaron Krickstein (1995 Semi Final)
Five and a half years after his first Grand Slam semi-final, American Aaron Krickstein made it back to that round claiming some big-name scalps along the way.
Ranked 45th before the tournament, Krickstein upset Wayne Ferreira in the second round before winning a five-setter against Stefan Edberg in the fourth round.
His run helped him be part of an All-American semi-final lineup however down two sets to love and trailing Andre Agassi 3-0 in the third set was forced to retire injured.
Brett Steven (1993 Quarter-Final)
Kiwi competitor Brett Steven made it to the quarter-finals of the 1993 tournament sitting in the low 70’s, he was not expected to do a whole lot.
He made it to the fourth round dropping just two sets along the way before facing a real challenge in Richard Fromberg.
8-6 in the final set and he made it to a match with Pete Sampras who would emerge victorious in straight sets.
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