While Aslan Karatsev’s run to the Australian Open semifinal wasn't completely out of the blue, the circumstances were certainly surprising. Ranked inside the UTR’s Top 40 prior to the event, the Russian dismantled Egor Gerasimov and Diego Schwartzman in the first week without dropping more than three games in a set.

Now that his career-altering prize money check has cleared, how will he respond to life with a target on his back? That remains to be seen. His opening round 6-4, 6-0 victory over Mubarak Shannan Zayid isn’t worth examining, as the local wild card had never won a match on the Challenger Tour, let alone in an ATP main draw.

But we’ll soon find out where Karatsev's game stands when the new world No. 45 will take on Dominic Thiem in Doha’s second round. Karatsev’s laser-flat groundstrokes could potentially cause problems, but according to players in Doha, the court is extremely gritty and high-bouncing, with the soft and light Dunlop ball fluffing up early on in the ball change. This will allow for some extended rallies, and overall slow conditions that should definitely favor the Austrian.

Thiem will need to serve well, as Karatsev has shown an ability to blister second-serve returns off both wings.

Advertising

The Pick: Dominic Thiem vs. Aslan Karatsev, ATP Doha second round

Karatsev’s backhand is world-class, but Thiem can try and negate the power and consistency from that side by chipping it low, and making him brush the ball over the net. This will give Thiem that extra split-second to either run around and hit his forehand, or line up his one-hander.

The Pick: Dominic Thiem vs. Aslan Karatsev, ATP Doha second round

Advertising

Thiem is a solid -280 favorite according to the oddsmakers, but given the surprisingly slow conditions in Doha, the -3.5 game spread at -126 is enticing. Karatsev was a much-needed shot of new blood on the Grand Slam stage, but one can’t help but think he is due for a natural let-down against the world’s fourth ranked player.

The Pick: Dominic Thiem to win by 3.5 games

The Pick: Dominic Thiem vs. Aslan Karatsev, ATP Doha second round

The Pick: Dominic Thiem vs. Aslan Karatsev, ATP Doha second round