Paris | Khachanov joins Masters elite
Karen Khachanov produced a blistering performance to take down the top seed Novak Djokovic in the final of the Paris Masters, in what he describes as his ‘biggest achievement’.
I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I mean, match by match I was increasing my level, I think that's what I showed against all the top 10 guys. I mean, today was Novak, the one who is No. 1 in the world. That's the first thing.
He becomes the third different first-time winner of a Masters tournament this season joining Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner and as a consequence rises to 11th in the world rankings. He is also the first Russian to win a Masters title since Nikolay Davydenko in 2009.
The 7-5 6-4 result was certainly not expected with everyone believing Djokovic, despite being taken to three sets in his two previous rounds, had the steely commitment to ensure he collected his fourth consecutive title.
While the 22-year-old Muscovite has been acknowledged as a big talent and a future star, he surprised the full house at Bercy by his own focus, power and commitment which completely frustrated his Serb opponent.
“It’s one of my biggest titles so far, biggest achievement. And in general, it’s a breakthrough season,” said Khachanov, who also won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month.
“And this title, it’s a good year-end. And maybe I’m not crying, but still I’m really happy. To finish the season like this is really a dream come true,” he added.
During the week Khachanov underlined his potential by scoring victories over three top ten players to reach the final, where Djokovic became just another major scalp. The only set he dropped was against John Isner in what was a gruelling battle between two powerful servers.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I mean, match by match I was increasing my level,” said the 6’6” Khachanov.
“I think that’s what I showed against all the top 10 guys. I mean, today was Novak, the one who is No. 1 in the world. That’s the first thing.
“The second thing is after some tough loses against top guys like Rafa in New York, I think they push me to the limit and even to work more harder.
“And I saw that my level is there. I could play and compete on this level. So it was a matter of just a few points.”
Djokovic, who will reclaim the top ranking from Rafael Nadal for the first time in two years, made a strong start in his pursuit of a record-equalling 33rd Masters title as he broke for a 3-1 lead in the opening set.
But world number 18 Khachanov, unbeaten in three previous finals, hit back in the very next game as Djokovic dragged a forehand into the tramlines, down break point.
The unseeded Russian then broke Djokovic for a 6-5 lead, momentarily faltering as he tried to serve out for the set before calmly regrouping to surge ahead.
Djokovic overcame Roger Federer in an energy-sapping classic that lasted over three hours in Saturday’s semi-finals, and the Serb began to look weary as he dropped serve to fall behind early in the second set.
The Russian secured a break for 2-1 with a crunching backhand pass down the line that Djokovic could only net on the half-volley.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion showed trademark resilience to fend off three break points while trailing 4-2, but Khachanov displayed steely composure to seal a memorable victory after an hour and 38 minutes.
“Karen played really well and he deserved to win that match,” said Djokovic, who admitted he had struggled to fully recover after his gruelling showdown with Federer less than 24 hours earlier.
“I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about how well he (Khachanov) played all week.
“All the credit to him. He deserves it. He’s a young player up and coming. But already established player, top player. And he showed great quality today and he showed why we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.”