Karen Khachanov: The Russian powerhouse

Ahead of the ATP NextGen finals in Milan, RealSport looks into the profile of 21 year-old Karen Khachanov, and the progress he has made this season.


Khachanov, born in Moscow to parents Agbar and Natalia, Khachanov first picked up a tennis racquet aged three. He turned professional back in 2013 and made a run to the semifinals of the 2013 Kremlin Cup. But other than that success was somewhat sparse for the Russian. He has made significant improvements this year, however, reaching a high of world #29 in August. Although he has since dropped off from that ranking, his progression going into Milan and the 2018 season has been impressive, and he’ll certainly be one to watch going into next year.

Career Highlights So Far

At just 17 years of age, he became the youngest Russian player on the Tour, surpassing the veteran Mikhail Youzhny's record. In the 2014 Youth Olympics, alongside Andrey Rublev, he won a silver medal in the doubles when both were teenagers.

These were the first few glimpses the tennis world had of Khachanov. But he soon won his first Challenger title in Istanbul in 2015, defeating one-time conqueror of Roger Federer, Sergiy Stakhovsky. He seemed to be progressing quickly, and in 2016 Khachanov began to feature more regularly on Tour, and played in Barcelona, Vienna, St Petersburg and Chengdu. He, in fact, picked up his first title in Chengdu, defeating the Spanish veteran Albert Ramos Vinolas in a tightly fought match in which Khachanov ultimately prevailed 6-7 7-6 6-3.

This year has been another impressive one for the Russian. He made five ATP quarterfinals, and reached the semifinals in Halle, where he lost narrowly to  Roger Federer. He put in career best performances at the Grand Slams this year, making his debut in Melbourne, Paris and Wimbledon. His efforts at Roland Garros and Wimbledon were particularly impressive. 

He made his second week debut at the French Open, defeating Nicholas Jarry, Tomas Berdych and John Isner to reach the fourth round where Andy Murray ultimately had too much for him. He also made it past countryman Alexander Kuznetsov and Thiago Monteiro before acquitting himself well in a straight sets defeat to Nadal at Wimbledon.

Rivalries

An early rivalry looks to be developing between the two young compatriots Andrey Rublev and Khachanov. Both have long been the leading lights of the next generation of Russian tennis players and when they met for the first time on Tour in Halle this year, it was a closely contested affair. Ultimately, Khachanov had just enough to defeat the younger man in three-sets. But of the two of them it is Rublev who has had the better season. He won his first title in Umag and then made it to the quarterfinals of the US Open, defeating Dimitrov and Goffin en route.

Thus, though Khachanov's leads their head-to-head rivalry, he has somewhat fallen behind the younger Rublev, indeed, he is eight spots behind him in the rankings. Khachanov has also twice faced the great Rafael Nadal. Although he is yet to win a set, he has played well against Nadal. As he continues to develop, he should have a good chance of restoring some parity to their head-to-head.

Playing Style

His idols growing up were Juan Martin del Potro and two-time Major champion Marat Safin and Khachanov's game style is fairly similar to theirs. He possesses a forehand that is amongst the biggest on Tour already. He is also solid off the backhand side, although that stroke is less powerful than the forehand. None-the-less, he can use it to set himself up in rallies, and isn't afraid to take it down the line. His volleys are not a particular strength, but he is effective enough at finishing off points at the net.

At 6 foot 6, he is physically strong, and moves well. Indeed, he is likely the best mover at his height since Tomas Berdych, another player his game style reflects. However, he would do well to add greater finesse to his game, to provide him with an option when he cannot simply hit through an opponent. If he could improve his volleys and drop shots Khachanov could well become a real threat across all surfaces.

Career Statistics

Australian Open: second round 2017 (lost to Jack Sock)

French Open: fourth round 2017 (Lost to Andy Murray)

Wimbledon: third round 2017 (Lost to Rafael Nadal)

US Open: second round 2016 (Lost to Kei Nishikori)

How far do you think Khachanov can go in Milan? Let us know in the comments below!

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Francis Ireland

I'm 19 years old and going on to my second year studying English and American Literature as an undergraduate at Keele University. I've always followed tennis ever since the Nadal and Federer Wimbledon final of 2007, but more consistently in the last two years, whereas before I used to follow Football and Tennis more or less the same. I also play tennis as regularly as I can in a week, as well as other sports too.

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