MELBOURNE - Karen Khachanov reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time on Tuesday after ailing American Sebastian Korda retired while trailing 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0.
The 18th seed raced out to a 4-1 lead before Korda calmed his nerves to force a tiebreak but the Russian hit back to win the first set with a backhand scorcher.
Korda, whose father Petr had triumphed at Melbourne Park in 1998, struggled on his forehand and had his right wrist strapped midway through a tight second set before Khachanov broke to go up 4-3 and the 26-year-old held firm to double his advantage.
With his injury affecting his rhythm and the match slipping away, 29th seed Korda dropped serve early in the third before throwing in the towel.
Khachanov, who will meet Stefanos Tsitsipas or Jiri Lehecka in the last four, said reinventing himself as a player had helped him make his latest breakthrough.
He burst onto the scene in 2018 when he won the Paris Masters but has had little success since, falling out of the top 10 and reaching only two Grand Slam quarter-finals until his run at Flushing Meadows last year.
“I think I kind of reinvented myself,” said the world number 20. “I would say I always believe in myself but there were always ups and downs.
“Sometimes when you have those great results, it shows you what you are capable of. Then you start to believe more and more. This belief and self-confidence appear much stronger after the U.S. Open.
“I made a few semi-finals already, so I hope to continue that way and to grow as a person and as a sportsman.”
Khachanov had beaten Korda in five sets the last time they met at a Grand Slam in Wimbledon in 2021 but the American came out on top twice last year on hardcourts.
“Obviously not the way you want to finish a match,” Khachanov added. “Seb beat one of my friends Daniil (Medvedev) in three sets.
“I’m really happy about my level, the way I compete. I’m looking forward to competing in the semi-finals here in Australia for the first time.”
Korda, meanwhile, grapples with the frustration of the forced exit and said he could barely hold the racquet before retiring in the Australian Open quarter-finals Tuesday. Despite the disappointment, he added he is confident of “really big things” ahead.
He said he first felt the injury while playing the Adelaide International this month, where he made the final and forced a championship point before being beaten by Novak Djokovic .But it had not bothered him in the opening four rounds at Melbourne Park until he hit a return in the second set.
“I had it in Adelaide and then it went away completely. Now it just came back out of nowhere,” he said.
“I have never had any wrist issues before .I knew kind of what it was right away, right when I hit the return. I kind of felt that spot that I was feeling before.
“Some forehands I couldn’t even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me, so it was a little tough.”
Despite the pain of defeat, it was a hugely successful Australian Open for Korda, who made a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time.
Along the way he stunned two-time losing finalist and seventh seed Daniil Medvedev and world number 10 Hubert Hurkacz.
“There is a lot of positives. I mean, way more positives than even negatives,” he said .“Today was tough, but hopefully it’s nothing serious and I can take care of it so I don’t have it in the future.
“Still a great tournament. My first quarter-final in a Grand Slam. You know, I’m going to go forward with my head high and keep working. ”REUTERS, AFP