MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Aslan Karatsev's fairytale run at the Australian Open may have ended in the semi-finals against Novak Djokovic on Thursday, but the Russian qualifier leaves Melbourne Park full of confidence, knowing he can compete against the best.
The 27-year-old, currently ranked 114th in the world, qualified for his maiden Grand Slam main draw at the 10th attempt last month and then went on to rewrite history on Melbourne Park's blue hardcourts over the last two weeks.
Karatsev became the first man in the open era to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam debut and the lowest-ranked player to reach the last four of a major for two decades.
"It gives me more experience, more confidence," Karatsev told reporters after his 6-3 6-4 6-2 defeat. "Now I will be playing all big tournaments without playing the qualifiers.
"So I'll get this confidence and just keep playing, keep practising. I am starting to believe more in myself that I can play with everyone."
Despite his loss, the Russian will leap into the top 50 in the world when the next ATP rankings are published on Monday, and he will also leave Australia with a cheque of A$850,000 (over $660,000), more than his entire career earnings so far.
During his campaign, Karatsev defeated a top-10 player in Diego Schwartzman and also outlasted the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. But playing Djokovic on the Rod Laver Arena was a completely different ball game for him.
"There is a huge level, I mean the difference is really big," the Russian said about his experience of playing against the eight-time Australian Open champion.
"He doesn't give you free points. On my serve it's like every point you have to take, you have to play the rally. The serve didn't work well today, and on my service games there's always rallies. He served well all the match."
($1 = 1.2852 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Hugh Lawson)