Rafael Nadal vs Karen Khachanov: China Open 2nd round preview and prediction

RealSport previews the second round clash between Spain's world #1 Rafael Nadal and Next Gen contender Karen Khachanov of Russia.

2005 winner and 16-time Major champion Rafael Nadal takes on Russian young gun Karen Khachanov in the third round of the China Open in Beijing. Nadal is looking to record his ninth consecutive win, after triumphing at the US Open at the start of September. Khachanov meanwhile is looking to turn around a period of poor form that has seen him fall out of the top 40. But who will make the quarterfinals in the Chinese capital?


Nadal and Khachanov have met just once so far in their careers. That match was this year at Wimbledon in the third round. Nadal began superbly, blunting the Khachanov attack completely whilst playing with plenty of aggression himself. The Spaniard reeled off the first eight games before Khachanov finally found his feet. From there on Khachanov acquitted himself well, with his powerful forehand preventing Nadal from running away with the match. But he was never able to land enough blows to turn the match around, ultimately going down 0-6 4-6 6-7.

Nadal also has a clear advantage in terms of experience compared with Khachanov. The Spaniard has won 74 career titles including the aforementioned 16 Slams as well as 30 Masters 1000 titles. He also has 863 Tour level wins. Khachanov, in contrast, has only one title, having won the Chengdu Open last year defeating Albert Ramos Vinolas in the final. He has also only played 82 Tour level matches, winning 42 of them.

Path to the second round

Nadal began his China Open with a difficult assignment against Lucas Pouille of France. Pouille famously upset Nadal in the fourth round at the US Open, winning a thriller in a fifth set tiebreak. The Frenchman has struggled for form lately, but his all round game makes him a difficult opponent when he can string it together. He was able to do so magnificently against Nadal for much of the match and it almost took him to victory. After winning the first set 6-4, he held two match points in the second set tiebreak. Nadal, however, saved them both in a four point run that saw him level the match. Fending off a break point midway through the decider, he broke for the first time at 5-5 and sealed the match in the next game.

Karen Khachanov began his China Open campaign against home hope Wu Di. Wu has performed well in front of his home fans before, once defeating Denis Istomin in the Davis Cup. But against the power of Khachanov he had no answer as the Russian dismissed him in straight sets 6-4 6-2. Wu will be hoping that he can continue to improve so as to be better able to compete at ATP level, whilst Khachanov earned the right to take on the world #1.

How do they match up?

Both men are capable of hitting big, particularly off the forehand side where they are blessed with pace. Where Nadal has the clear advantage over Khachanov is in terms of movement. Khachanov is not a bad mover, but has nothing like the defensive skills of the great Nadal. Indeed, the Spaniard revolutionised the defensive side of the game alongside Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. A key area for Khachanov will be his serve. He is capable of hitting it at speeds of above 130 mph and will need to find his first serve regularly to trouble Nadal.


Nadal should win this match. He was able to get the better of Khachanov at Wimbledon in straight sets. Though the Russian looks to be more comfortable on hard courts than grass, he doesn’t seem likely to have enough weapons to hit through Nadal. If the Spaniard can withstand Khachanov’s firepower early on he should get through to the quarterfinals in straight sets.

Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jim Smith


Jim is RealSport's tennis editor and a Warwick University history graduate. Alongside watching tennis, he is also a diehard Tottenham Hotspur fan, and also supports the Dallas Mavericks and the Carolina Panthers. Follow him on twitter at @jimsmithtennis