2018 has been Karen Kachanov’s break out year. And at the fag end of the season, it is getting even better for the young Russian. He followed up his impressive victory over John Isner in the round of 16 with a demolition act of his own over World number five Alexander Zverev, in Paris Masters quarter-final.
The 6-1, 6-2 score-line suggests an annihilation. Of course, he was aided by an apparent shoulder injury to Alexander Zverev. But the fact that Zverev did not retire in the match hints at a possibility that the German was hopeful that the sometimes combustible Khachanov’s focus may waver at some point, giving him a foothold into the match.
Even the moment when Zverev verbally confronted Khachanov during a change-over by telling him that his camp was making a bit too much noise, could not be a moment of momentum shift as something like this did have the potential to flare up the sometimes-moody Russian and affect his game. He did not let Zverev’s verbal confrontation be a hurdle in the pursuit of his first victory over his more established opponent.
When a player sees his opponent struggle with injury on the other side of the net, it could also lead him to lose focus from his own game. And sometimes, young fiery characters such as Khachanov can be derailed through verbal confrontations.
Khachanov must be credited with not losing focus during the match on the face of these two possible distractions or provocations. The world knew of his big serves and big forehands, and now we know of his steely determination, which going forward, could be a lethal combination.
His opponent in the semi-final is going to be the Austrian, Dominic Thiem, who defeated defending Champion Jack Sock in three sets. The match was an extremely close affair. In fact, it was Sock who won a point more than his opponent, though Thiem crucially had one more service break than Sock. That, in the end, proved to be the difference between the two players.
After his heroics at the US Open and now his quarterfinal victory on the hard courts of Paris Masters, it’s time people stopped calling Thiem a clay-court specialist. He is a damn good player on any surface, with clay being his best surface. If that rings a bell, well, don’t be surprised.
He may not end up with as many grand slams or French opens as Rafael Nadal, but he certainly is the Nadal heir in the true sense of the term – a player who is bound to dominate clay in near future, and come up with impressive results on other surfaces too. His come from behind victory over the resurgent Jack Sock is a further testimony to his growing stature as an all-court player.
How will Thiem match up to the big-serving Khachanov? Well, this is the first time they are going to lock horns with each other. And most certainly, this will be the first of many more to come.
It will be a clash of opposites, with a fiery Khachanov facing off the cool-as-cucumber Dominic Thiem. But on the evidence of a newfound maturity seen in Khachanov’s game in the Paris Masters, it seems like it’s the Russian who has a slight edge, going into their semi-final match.
Prediction: Khachanov to win in 3 SetsPublished 02 Nov 2018, 23:47 IST