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Russian-Israeli tennis player Karatsev wins silver for Russia in mixed doubles

Karatsev, who plays for Russia but grew up in Israel, loses final along with playing partner Elena Vesnina against another Russian duo

Silver medallists Russia's Elena Vesnina and Russia's Aslan Karatsev pose with their medal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic mixed doubles tennis medal ceremony at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Silver medallists Russia's Elena Vesnina and Russia's Aslan Karatsev pose with their medal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic mixed doubles tennis medal ceremony at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on August 1, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Russian-Israeli tennis player Aslan Karatsev, representing the Russian Olympic Committee at the Tokyo Games, won a silver medal after losing Sunday’s mixed doubles final.

Karatsev and his doubles partner Elena Vesnina went down in three sets to another Russian duo, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev.

Karatsev, 27, plays for Russia but grew up and trained in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew.

The duo defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and his partner Nina Stojanovic Friday, allowing them to proceed to the final.

Karatsev was born in Vladikavkaz, Russia, but said in an interview in March that he moved to Israel when he was three years old, and started to play there.

“I grew up there, practicing there until 12 years old, and then I moved back to Russia with my father. Then I was living in Rostov… I was practicing there until 18 years old, then I started practicing in Moscow,” he said.

Aslan Karatsev, of the Russian Olympic Committee, returns a shot during the mixed doubles gold medal match of the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, August 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The 27-year-old became the first man to reach the semifinals on his Grand Slam debut in the Open era at the Australian Open in February. He later won his first ATP Tour title, beating Lloyd Harris in the Dubai final.

In recent years, Karatsev has been traveling to competitions around Europe but, until recently, without major success. When tennis tournaments restarted last August 2020 after a five-month break due to COVID-19, however, he won 18 of his last 20 ATP Challenger Tour matches, including two trophies.

In 2019 he visited Israel to settle some personal affairs, according to the Hebrew-language One sports website. While training in Tel Aviv, Karatsev, who still has an Israeli passport, showed locals that in addition to his skills with the racquet he still speaks fluent Hebrew.

As a young, enthusiastic player in Israel, he met and played against Amir Weintraub, who would go on to become a top Israeli professional tennis player (with a highest world ranking of 161), according to One.

Though he showed obvious potential, financial hardships kept Karatsev from advancing his natural talent, the site said, and he eventually returned to Russia with his father. His mother and sister remained in Israel.

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