Khachanov Leading A Russian Renaissance On The Tennis Court

Karen Khachanov (photo: Brigitte Urban)

WASHINGTON, December 12, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

If Karen Khachanov wasn’t a tennis player, he would have liked playing basketball. After all, Khachanov stands 6-feet 6-inches (1.98 m) tall – which is plenty tall to excel on the hardwood – and counts NBA superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers as one of his sporting idols. For now, however, he’s making an huge impact on the tennis world. After achieving a career-high ranking 10 times in 2017 – peaking at No. 29 – the 22-year-old Russian native from Moscow had an even better 2018.

Consider this: Khachanov put up 46 wins, won three titles, and pocketed more than $3.3 million in 2018. Not bad considering that he entered the year with just 43 tour-level wins. After starting the year ranked No. 45, he finished just outside the Top 10 at a very solid No. 11, rising steadily in the second-half of the year, and ended the season by winning 11 of his final 12 matches.

In his final tournament of 2018, Khachanov won the Rolex Paris Masters at Bercy, beating three Top 10 players, John Isner, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, plus four-time champion and then-World No. 2 Novak Djokovic along the way – dropping just one set – to lift his first Masters 1000 trophy. He broke Djokovic’s 22-match winning streak en route to winning the title. He won his final six matches of the season by capitalizing on his powerful serve (accumulating 1,309 aces this season) and steady forehand strokes.

“It means the world to me,” Khachanov said beating Djokovic. “I couldn’t be happier to finish the season like this.”

Two weeks before Paris, Khachanov won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. His other title this year came back in February when he won the Open 13 Provence in Marseilles. The first title of his career came two years ago in Chengdu. Working again with Vedran Martin of Croatia, the former coach of Goran Ivanicevic – who previously coached Khachanov until 2014 – has proven to be the right combination.

Khachanov finished 2018 with a 46-22 win-loss record, which included a 16-8 mark in Masters 1000 competition, and he was 9-4 in Grand Slams, reaching the fourth round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. He was selected as an alternate for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London.

Although he’s proficient on clay, Khachanov’s best surface this year was on hard courts, where he compiled an impressive 35-15 record. He was 42-5 after winning the first set of his matches.

By all accounts, Khachanov has both the mental and physical tools to break into the Top 10 in 2019. When not playing tennis, he enjoys playing chess and digesting classic Roman novels, both which bring out the intellectual side of his personality. Currently, Khachanov is working toward a degree in physical education from the University of Moscow, studying long-distance while on tour.

“Education is always important and after I finished high school, I tried to be in the university as much as I can,” Khachanov told the ATP website. “Now, I can study online.”

Along with No. 16 Daniil Medvedev, No. 68 Andrey Rublev and No. 98 Evgeny Donskoy, the future of Russian tennis is in good hands.