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Tennis players to reach men's singles Grand Slam semifinals after coming through as qualifiers

Published at :February 6, 2024 at 4:43 PM
Modified at :February 6, 2024 at 6:32 PM
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(Courtesy : UBITennis)


No player has won the title or reached final while coming through qualifiers in men’s singles.

Qualifying for the main draw of a tennis Grand Slam is a tough challenge for any player. They have to play three matches even before the start of the main event, where they face 112 other competitors. Only 16 players can make it through the qualifiers, and most of them are lower-ranked players who have to overcome more obstacles than the rest.

Therefore, when a qualifier reaches the final rounds of a Grand Slam, it is a remarkable achievement that signals their potential for greatness. To reach the semi-finals, for instance, they have to beat at least two seeded players and pull off five upsets against higher-ranked opponents. Only a few players have managed to do that in the history of men’s singles tennis.

In this article, we take a look at the list of all such players who have qualified for the semifinals of a Grand Slam after having to go through the qualifiers in men’s singles.

John McEnroe – (Wimbledon Championships, 1977)

Perhaps the greatest player on the list, the US national John McEnroe made his debut at the Wimbledon Championships in 1977 as a qualifier. He stunned the tennis world by defeating higher seeds like Australian ace Phil Dent (13th seed) and compatriot Alexander Mayer before losing to the top seed and another compatriot, Jimmy Connors. Connors then lost the final to Bjorn Borg.

Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe would then go on to win 26 Grand Slam titles, compete against each other, and dominate the sport.

Bob Giltinan – (Australian Open, 1977)

Bob Giltinan followed in the footsteps of John McEnroe and became the second player ever to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament as a qualifier. He achieved this feat at the Australian Open of 1977, which was moved forward to December due to a scheduling change. He played his best tennis ever in the tournament and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, his only semi-final appearance in a Major.

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Filip Dewulf – (French Open, 1997)

Filip Dewulf put Belgium on the world map when he became the first player from the nation to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam in 1997. He did it at the French Open of 1997, a tournament that had only one seeded player in the quarterfinals. An unseeded Brazilian ace, Gustavo Kuertan, won the tournament and later became the World No. 1.

Dewulf defeated two players who came through the qualifiers like him, Rafael Nadal’s future coach and ninth seed of the tournament, Carlos Moya and eighth seed Alex Corretja. He lost to Kuertan in the semis.

Vladimir Voltchkov – (Wimbledon Championships, 2000)

Belarusian pro Vladimir Voltchkov became only the fourth player ever to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament as a qualifier when he beat Bryan Black of Zimbabwe in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Championships 2000. He also knocked out the sixth seed of the tournament, French pro Cedric Pioline, in his remarkable run.

In the semifinals, Voltchkov faced the top seed and seven-time Wimbledon champion, Pete Sampras. The American legend showed no mercy and crushed the Belarusian in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, ending his fairy-tale run. This tournament was his best-ever performance in a Major.

Aslan Karatsev – (Australian Open, 2021)

Aslan Karatsev made history by becoming the fifth player to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament as a qualifier in the men’s singles event. He did it at the Australian Open 2021, where he was ranked World No. 39.

He stunned the tennis world by defeating the eighth seed Diego Sebastian Schwartzmann, the 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, and the 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov before losing to the top seed and the reigning champion, Novak Djokovic, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, in three straight sets.

The Russian also won the Davis Cup and a silver medal in the mixed doubles along with Elina Vesnina at the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021, where they lost to their compatriots Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev in the finals.

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