Abu Dhabi: Russian NextGen star Karen Khachanov made everyone sit back and take notice when he shocked World No 1 Novak Djokovic to win the Paris Masters, this November; thus heralding his arrival into the big league.
The stunning show saw him finish at a career high No 11 in the world rankings. Khachanov is all set to make his debut at the Mubadala Tennis Championship, taking on Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals Thursday at 6pm.
“Great hotel, good weather, sun, that is the most important thing, right. I’m in a good mood.
“Off-season went well, a lot of hard work has been done. Not as long as in previous years, but that is a good sign because I had a great year last year and I finish a little later,” said the Russian, who will be meeting Djokovic in the semis on Friday, if he can get across the line against Thiem.
Khachanov, who ended Djokovic’s 22-game winning streak in that straight sets 7-5, 4-6 win in Paris, was of the view that there were plenty of plusses that he could take from that contest but it is still a thing of the past and he needs to take a fresh start.
“I definitely can take something from that win against Djokovic as it brought me to No 11 in the World. But again, it is a new season and you start from zero. You have to again prove you are good,” said Khachanov adding, it was important to keep playing well and to focus on each game to move up the ladder and break into the top 10 this season.
“Even if you are seeded, you will still have tough matches as all the guys who are ranked above top 100 or lower are playing good. You have to be focused with each match and try to play well. Being a seeded player can help but it depends on my games as well,” said Khachanov, whose primary goal from the Abu Dhabi event is to see where he is placed at the beginning of the season.
“I will try to bring my game all together. You know at the end of the season you work a lot, worked hard and little bit more tired. Some aspects of the game need to be put together and then try to show good tennis so that I can head to Doha with a good feeling at the beginning of the year,” said the 22-year-old.
World No 8 Thiem also revealed that he was ready for the challenge and was trying to break into the top four.
“That’s what I’m trying actually. Last year, I made the most points of my career but I still finished only eighth. That was all because of my not good result at the Masters 1000. Result-wise, my ambition is to play well in the Masters 1000 and finish higher in the ranking,” asserted Thiem, who insisted that it was important to start on a high straight away.
“It is important for everyone as we don’t know how we play in the matches. Everyone has played many points in the off season but the real match is different and everyone is pumped to play here — to see how your off season has gone and how are the other players. So everybody will give their 100 per cent,” said Thiem, contending that his opponent Khachanov will be a hard nut to crack and the latter’s success was never a surprise for him.
“For me it was only a question of time until he (Khachanov) makes his breakthrough. For me there is no weakness actually, he is a big top player with very fast and powerful strokes. I think he was achieving too little the whole year and then finished 11th — which is amazing — by winning the Masters. I’m almost 100 per cent he will be in the top 10 at the end of this year.”