ROC's Karen Khachanov beat Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics to advance to Sunday's gold medal match. He will next face Alexander Zverev, who pulled off a massive upset win over 20-time Major champion Novak Djokovic.
Irrespective of Sunday's result, Khachanov is now guaranteed to leave Tokyo with a medal. Speaking to the press after his emotional victory, the 25-year-old said it was a "dream come true" for him to take home an Olympic medal.
“It was so important to win today because at least you know for sure that you’re guaranteed a medal, which is one of the dreams come true,” said Khachanov, who is looking to become the first Russian man since Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 2000 to win the gold.
“But obviously, you need to find motivation and excitement, and I will try to be prepared for the final and fight for the gold.”
"This match today was very important for my head” - Karen Khachanov
The Russian was extremely solid on serve throughout the semi-final contest. He conceded just a single break point all match and did not drop serve even once. He was also consistent from the baseline and made just nine unforced errors.
Khachanov said the work he had done on the mental aspects of his game over the past year was finally paying dividends.
“Since last year, when I had a couple of ups and downs and I dropped a little mentally, I started to work on my mindset, my mentality," said the Russian.
"Mentality means different things for different parts of the match – how do you approach those kinds of circumstances, those kinds of situations, and how you deal with them. I started to work on this part and I’m really happy that it’s paying off," said Khachanov.
The World No. 25 said coming through such an important match would work wonders for his mindset going forward.
“At the end of the day, your strokes are there, you’ve been practising tennis all your life – you cannot forget how to play tennis," Khachanov said. "But how you use your shots, in which moments, and how you deal with pressure, this is one of the most important things. This match today was very important for my head.”