KAREN KHACHANOV WINS ATP ROLEX PARIS MASTERS TENNIS TITLE FROM RICHARD EVANS

Written by: on 4th November 2018
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Rolex Paris Masters 2018 Tennis Tournament
KAREN KHACHANOV WINS ATP ROLEX PARIS MASTERS TENNIS TITLE FROM RICHARD EVANS

epa07141304 Karen Khachanov of Russia poses with the trophy after winning the final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 04 November 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON  |

There have been several surprise winners at last ATP Masters 1000 event of the year at Bercy’s Omnipalais since its inception in 1986 and not all of them have left a major mark on the game. Karen Khachanov will. It is hard to suggest otherwise after the manner in which he handled his first ever final at this level with a 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Novak Djokovic who will return to No 1 in the world tomorrow.

 

The victory itself is noteworthy. But there was more to it than that. More to it, even, than the fact that the Russian is a 6 ft 6” powerhouse who could flatten anyone with his serve and forehand. It is about the man himself. It is about the manner in which he accepted his victory – he had to be coaxed to admit that he was “really happy” – and the confident yet unboastful way that he carries himself.

 

He won his native title at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow three weeks ago so Russia has been alerted to what lies in store. But this is a far bigger and threatens to launch him onto the world stage as the next man to watch in this most international of sports. It seems unlikely that it will phase him.

 

When queried about how Djokovic and his peers handled fame, Khachanov said, “I don’t mind the attention. You have to deal with the pressure always, I think, on every stage. If you think about the top guys , how they are doing when they go on court…In most of situations and matches they deal with it. So, I mean it’s work. It’s a homework that I have to do. And with experience I think it will come.”

 

I suspect Khachanov has always done his homework without too much prodding. Now he looks like a young man with both feet on the ground and a very clear vision of where those feet will lead him. He sees the road ahead and is beginning to understand how to negotiate it. By this time next year I shall be surprised if it has not led him to the world’s top five.

 

Today, in front of 15,000 animated tennis fans, there was a big question mark as to exactly how the 22-year-old Russian would handle the biggest match of his life. When Djokovic came at him from the get-go with some fierce returns and broke to lead 3-1 and 30-0 on serve, the Serb seemed to be doing what was expected of him. Then Khachanov struck with some of those blistering returns, broke and broke again, holding steady when he relied on his serve to bring him the first set.

 

By that stage, Djokovic, who has been a little under par with a cold all week, was starting to look a bit frazzled and he never really looked like regaining his foothold on the match.

 

Karen Khachanov of Russia (R) poses with the trophy after winning the final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia (L) at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 04 November 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

The manner in which Khachanov dealt with the Serb’s early dominance was, perhaps, the most impressive feature of the match. He explained it this way: “Novak started with really, really high intensity. At times it was tough to resist. Maybe I did a couple of mistakes and he was on me. But after a few games I could increase my level and step in more. I started to move him and maybe he didn’t expect that.”

 

Khachanov also proved that he was not afraid of going to the net. “But you cannot just go to the net because he has unbelievable passing shots. You have to really prepare. You have to really sort out the right shots – when you step in and go to the net. But, in general, my game is aggressive and I have to try and step in more and play the way I played.”

 

The assessment is sound. Khachanov knows what he needs to do and is capable of doing it against the best. That is now proved and the locker room will be taking note.

 

And what did Djokovic think? After admitting that he did not recover well from his hard earned victory over Roger Federer the day before, Novak said, “But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about how well he played all week and, you know, really deserved to win today.”

 

Analyzing the Russian’s game, Djokovic went on: “He was playing big from the back of the court. Flat backhands and forehands. He can really hurt you. That’s a big weapon. And serve. His serve is really, really strong and precise. He showed great quality today and we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.”

 

You can’t argue with that. As comparisons with previous Russian champions came up, it would be fair to say that, technically, Karen is more Marat Safin than Yevgeny Kafelnikov and, given the fact that Safin felt he needed the support of a bevy of blondes in his box when he reached his first Australian Open final, Kachanov might also find it easier to keep his eye on the ball. He is married.

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