The Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships are in full flow as the weekend edges near. Novak Djokovic kept up his sublime form this season with a commanding victory over Karen Khachanov in the quarter-final round.
Djokovic and Khachanov had met thrice before their clash in Dubai. Djokovic led the rivalry 2-1, but Karen’s sole victory over Novak was no mean feat.
In 2018, Khachanov made his first-ever Masters 1000 final at the Paris Masters. He came up against none other than a very much in-form Novak Djokovic. Not only had Djokovic won both Wimbledon and US Open that year, but he had also already defeated Karen at Wimbledon.
Khachanov had a good season in 2018 too. He put in a terrific performance to beat the Serb 7-5, 6-4, and win his maiden ATP 1000 title.
Naturally, after a breakthrough season in 2018, everyone expected the Russian to keep improving and establish himself in the Top 10. However, he has been unable to improve, or even repeat, his performances since.
Djokovic dismantled the Russian fairly easily. He won the match 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour.
It would be unfair, though, to call out Karen after his loss, given Novak is playing some of his best tennis right now.
After their clash in Dubai, Novak was asked what his impression of Karen was, and how far the Russian was from his best.
“He’s a very powerful player physically. Also, he hits the ball hard, especially from the forehand corner. He hits his backhand very flat. He has a big serve. With this kind of game, I think he’s always a contender to be top 10, top 15 of the world. He’s been playing I think better quality tennis in the last I would say four, five months than maybe last season.”
A keen observation by the Serbian. Khachanov hasn’t been terrible since the start of the year. He reached the semi-finals of the ATP Cup with Russia, and also put up a commendable fight against Kyrgios in the Australian Open.
Talking about Karen’s potential, Djokovic had some encouraging words for the youngster.
“Because he’s still young, he’s figuring out how to be the best version of himself throughout the entire year. It’s a big task. Rankings are much more difficult nowadays to get to top 10, top 5 of the world. I’m sure that’s his goal. He has the talent. He has the potential to achieve that.”
Well, if anyone knows about the potential of this young Russian, it’s Novak.
Khachanov has a very powerful game. His huge serve and blistering groundstrokes can enable him to blow away any opponent, but he needs a lot more consistency than he has displayed so far.