Karen Khachanov
Karen Khachanov. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Former top-10 player and Dubai resident Karen Khachanov is hoping for a better show in his “home tournament”, the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month.

The current World No. 17, who is one of the big names confirmed for the men’s event to be held at the Dubai Tennis Stadium from February 24, is yet to dig deeper into the men’s competition as the event marks its 28th year this year.

The Russian is yet to advance at least to the quarter-finals during the past three years that he has played in the main draw.

In 2017 he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets, the following year to Lucas Pouille in three sets before another Round One departure against Nikoloz Basilashvili last year.

“I am always wishing to play good here, but this has somehow not worked here for the last few years. I really don’t know what it is, but may be I am not getting used to the conditions here,” Khachanov told Gulf News after a training session at the Al Habtoor Tennis Academy off Shaikh Zayed Road.

“But I hope this year will be different as I have spent the whole of December here with my pre-season preparations. I hope I can fare a little bit better for the tournament this year,” he hoped.

Khachanov has achieved a career-high singles ranking of world No. 8 on July 15 last year after reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open.

The Russian, who turns 24 on May 21, has not had the best of starts this season following his Round Two exit against John Millman at the Auckland Open and his Round Three loss in five sets against Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open.

However, that is not a deterrent to the hard-working Russian player of Armenian descent. “I am always thinking big,” he admitted.

“But I would not like to take it ranking-wise. There is no secret that I want to be as high as possible. I want to focus more on myself and put myself in a position where I can win more. This is the most important part of the game and the results will come automatically,” he added.

Khachanov has long been seen as one of the future stars of the men’s game. He was most effective at the end of the 2018 season during which he defeated four top-10 players including Novak Djokovic en route to winning the Paris Masters 1,000 event — the biggest title of his career to date.

He is well aware of the responsibilities that lie ahead for him. “For me, it is a question when the younger guys will step up and try to push our legends out of the top. I cannot tell you when this is going to happen. I wish I can be the first among these young players winning a Grand Slam,” he smiled.

“Everybody among the younger generation has a good level and I have a lot of respect for them all. I think we all have pretty similar levels and it is really tough to say who is going to jump first. It could be anyone and it is really tough to really bet on someone in particular,” he added.

Pushed to name a handful of future stars who could be occupying the top men’s rankings alongside him in the near future, Khachanov professed: “[Alexander] Zverev, Daniil [Medvedev], [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Andrey] Rublev and [Denis] Shapovalov. The six of us could be dominating in the next stages of tennis or it will be these six who will be around at the top.

“But, I cannot say who will be number one, two, three, etc as that’s hard to predict. At the moment, I feel I am not really far from the top. It all depends on the state of mind while believing in myself and pushing myself. I believe this stage can come soon,” Khachanov added.

The Family Guy

Khachanov is glad he has his family to bank on while tackling the rigours of professional tennis.

The 23-year-old Russian player, who married Veronika Shkliaeva in April 2016, welcomed their first son on September 14, 2019.

The young couple had dated for a long time and had known each other since childhood.

“Every person has a different character and a different view on life. In my case, I just wanted to be happy,” Khachanov explained when asked about his relatively early age of starting a family.

“I have my wife on my side, and now we have our son and everything is going in a proper way. I don’t like to mix my personal life with tennis, but if does happen then I need to adapt and see in every stage what I need to do and what I need to achieve. I am a really happy person like that and it has nothing to do with tennis,” he added.