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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday June 9, 2021

 
Karatsev and Vesnina

Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev formed an unlikely pairing and reached the Roland Garros mixed doubles final.

Photo Source: AP

With an eye on the Olympics, Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev are gunning for a mixed doubles title at Roland Garros.

Tennis Express

Vesnina, who has made a return to the tour this year after giving birth to her daughter Elizaveta in November of 2018, has just begun to find her feet on the courts. She reached the third round in singles and the first round in doubles, but is still around in mixed thanks to a first-time partnership with Karatsev, who has been one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises on the ATP Tour this season.

The Russian, 27, became the first player in ATP history to reach the semi-finals on his Grand Slam singles debut in February at the Australian Open. Now ranked 26 in the world, he is one of the four Russians—along with Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov—that has qualified for the Olympics. He chose Vesnina as a partner this week with that in mind.


Vesnina says that he texted her in February, not long after his Australian Open breakout.

"I was honestly surprised when I saw the message from him,” she said. “He texted me in February, I didn't even play Doha. He was like 'Oh hey, do you want to play mixed with me at the French?' and I'm like 'Aslan it's only February I don't know where I am right now, the level of my game.'

“I really felt happy that the guy who just did the semi-finals at the Australian Open was asking me to play mixed doubles with him,” she said.

The unseeded pair, who knocked off the No.2-seeded and No.3-seeded tandems en route to the final, will face Joe Salisbury and Desirae Krawczyk in the final.

Salisbury is bidding to become the first British player to win the mixed title in Paris since John Lloyd in 1982.

Karatsev says that Vesnina is showing him the ropes of the mixed game. The 34-year-old has a mixed major title on her CV, as well as three major doubles title and an Olympic gold medal.

"We're doing well, but I have to get some experience in the mixed game, sometimes at the net, where to move to the right spots at the right moment,” Karatsev said. "It's the first time that I'm playing mixed so it's new for me."

In general, Karatsev is thrilled to be a part of the Olympics, no matter which discipline he ends up playing.

"It means a lot. Olympic Games, it's first time, you cannot compare it to any other tournament, it's something special that you play for your country,” he said. “We don't know yet about mixed but I will play for sure singles, doubles and I'm really looking forward to play there, it's nothing that you can compare it to."

For now, he’s happy to have good training from a doubles legend – and a shot at a major title on Thursday.

"She has a good experience, and sometimes she tells me some advice, just doubles things, where you have to stay, where you have to cover more,” she said. “She shares the experience that she has. She's saying like be strong on your shots. I'm still playing my game but just the position, where to stay, where to close, I get the information from her."

 

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