The No. 18 seed carried his revelatory US Open form to Melbourne and is into a second straight major semifinal; can he score his first Top 10 victory since 2019 against Stefanos Tsitsipas?
Published Jan 27, 2023
Published Jan 27, 2023
Once leading the charge for a new generation of Russian tennis, Karen Khachanov nearly risked falling behind as Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev leapfrogged him in the ATP rankings.
The last six months have been significantly kinder to the 6’6” giant, who broke new ground at major tournaments last summer when he reached his first US Open semifinal. Khachanov turned around and did it again in Melbourne, and looks to reach a maiden major final, but he will need to snap a 22-match losing streak against Top 10 opposition by up-ending No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.
Can Khachanov continue his upward trajectory? He’s why he will—and what he needs to watch out for:
I think the first semifinals which I did in US Open, that gave me extra boost and extra confidence, you know, to show where I really am, you know, and what I can do when I’m at my best and how can I be more consistent with that form. Karen Khachanov
While that 0-22 record over the last three years looks daunting, one must note that nearly half of those losses have come to Novak Djokovic, including two just this past fall.
Otherwise, there is every reason to believe Khachanov will snap this streak sooner rather than later. His powerful game is allowing him to dictate play from the middle of the court and limit out-of-position exposure to his extreme grip forehand. Improved patience and shot selection have also played a role, but confidence above all has made the biggest difference.
“I think the first semifinals which I did in US Open,” Khachanov explained after the quarterfinals, “that gave me extra boost and extra confidence, you know, to show where I really am, you know, and what I can do when I’m at my best and how can I be more consistent with that form.”
Suddenly the 26-year-old is looking more like the youngster who beat four Top 10 players—including Djokovic—to win his first Masters 1000 title in Paris.
“I would say it’s all the details, you know,” he said. All the small things that you put together in order to kind of do those steps forward and to, yeah, to keep achieving those goals which are set.”
Khachanov also appears driven by a higher cause, showing unwavering support for Artsakh, a disputed territory formally part of Azerbaijan.
“I have Armenian roots,” he said. “From my father’s side, from my grandfather’s side, even from my mom’s side. I’m half Armenian. To be honest, I don’t want to go deeper than that, and I just wanted to show strength and support to my people. That’s it.”
Could all of this be enough for him to go one better than he did in Flushing Meadows?
A post shared by Karen Khachanov |Карен Хачанов (@karenkhachanov)
Khachanov certainly believes he can, feeling significantly fresher than he felt at this point at the US Open; where he benefits here from an early retirement against Sebastian Korda, the Russian went late into the night playing Nick Kyrgios on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Still, Tsitsipas has proven a tough customer in 2023, going undefeated through four United Cup matches and five in Melbourne. Leading Khachanov 5-0 in their head-to-head, their most recent encounter went three sets on clay, but all three of their outdoor hard-court matches were straight-sets affairs.
With a more diverse arsenal at his disposal, Tsitsipas will likely aim to get Khachanov on the run, drawing short balls or unforced errors off the forehand side. Should that happen early and often, it will be an easy day at the office for the No. 3 seed.
But for all that’s up against him, Khachanov has the benefit of being the underdog against a player who has often blinked in the later stages of Grand Slams. On the brink of returning to the Top 10 himself, this may be no greater moment for him to score a full-circle victory of his own.