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China Open 2019 semifinal: Dominic Thiem vs Karen Khachanov, preview and prediction

ANALYST
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239   //    04 Oct 2019, 23:43 IST

2019 China Open - Dominic Thiem
2019 China Open - Dominic Thiem

Andy Murray’s sensational resurgence on his comeback trail was halted by Dominic Thiem in the China Open quarterfinal as the Austrian displayed tremendous grit and an array of breathtaking shots in his 6-2, 7-6(7-3) win over the former World No.1.

While Thiem is yet to drop a set so far at Beijing, his opponent in the semi-final Karen Khachanov dropped his first set of the week against Fabio Fognini. The 23-year old Russian recorded a come from behind victory over the Italian to book a spot in the semis.

With a straight-sets win over the 2016 China Open champion Murray, Thiem has entered his 7th semi-final of 2019. He is aiming to capture his second hardcourt title this year, having won the Indian Wells Masters in March.

2019 China Open - Karen Khachanov
2019 China Open - Karen Khachanov

Khachanov on the other hand has been going through a horror year, succumbing to first round exits in multiple tournaments. If the 23-year-old beats the Austrian tomorrow, it would be his first appearance in a final since his triumph at the 2018 Paris Masters.

Thiem and Khachanov have a 1-1 head-to-head record. It was the latter who won their only contest on hardcourt; the Russian upset Thiem in the semi-finals at Paris last year.

Even though Thiem enjoyed a large amount of success in the first half of this year, it has been quite a struggle for the talented Austrian in recent times. Injury and inconsistency have dogged his performances since Wimbledon.

Karen Khachanov (far) and Dominic Thiem
Karen Khachanov (far) and Dominic Thiem

But at Beijing Thiem has looked at his very best. He has performed like a No. 1 seed so far, adjusting his game to the requirements of hardcourts and outgunning all of his opponents from the baseline.

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With Khachanov being a strong baseline player too and someone who can produce thunderous, line-licking forehands, it won’t be a surprise if this contest turns out to be a physically demanding one. Thiem would look to employ variety, particularly his backhand slice and drop shot, to disrupt Khachanov's rhythm. The Russian on the other hand would look to take the racquet out of Thiem's hands with his big serving.

Thiem will start as a slight favourite against Khachanov, but he would have to guard against any dips in intensity. Can he cruise to a victory over Khachanov and move a step closer towards the title, or will the Russian produce his best to reach his maiden final of 2019?

It promises to be an entertaining and enthralling shot-making spectacle either way.

Prediction: Dominic Thiem to win in straight sets.

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