Wimbledon

US Open – Karen Khachanov, unexpected comeback: “I liked the 2nd non-season during Wimbledon”


You should have seen it coming. But Karen Khachanov is in the semifinals of the US Open, a stage she’s never reached at the Grand Slam. The Russian and almost double mistress (she measures 98 by 1 meter to be exact) has no doubt in her tennis values ​​to go far in the biggest tournaments. But in the last three years it had fallen so far down the line that it was definitely hard to predict such a trajectory.

Make no mistake: Khachanov did not really disappear from circulation. For four years, the contact has never left the Top 35 of the world rankings (he was also 31st at the start of these two weeks). But since his famous stunt in Paris-Bercy in the fall of 2018 – winning timpani by beating four members of the top 10 in a row, including Novak Djokovic in the final – he hasn’t won a single title on the circuit.

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Karen Khachanov at the US Open in 2022

Credit: Getty Images

Disappointing since Bercy, it reappeared just in time.

So much so that we got used to not expecting much from the Muscovite except for a few brilliant shots. For example, he chained the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year – thus equaling his best Grand Slam result at Roland-Garros in 2019 – and had an Olympic Games final before the bellows fell again. And despite a new finale kicking off in Adelaide in 2022, his season has so far remained almost anonymous, most notably the 3rd round Grand Slam at the Australian Open (6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 by Rafael Nadal). ) and the round of 16 (6-1, 6-4, 6-4) at Roland-Garros, where Carlos Alcaraz brutally stopped him.

However, as the ATP website tells it, their uneven results did not prevent Khachanov from keeping his faith. “I’m always thinking about how I can improve to move up the leaderboard, get back to the Top 10. This is my ultimate goal and every day I try to figure out what I can do better. The really important thing is, first of all, to believe in yourself, in your abilities. You can go out on a field and lose a game, there’s no shame in that. But what makes the difference is our belief that we can go forward and win.

Until this 2022 edition, Khachanov had never done better than lap 3 at Flushing Meadows. So it’s paradoxical on paper to see it make a breakthrough in New York. But that would be to forget that this is not just any 3rd round. A few months before his success at Bercy, the giant made himself public by resisting Rafael Nadal on the field for nearly four and a half hours (5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6). Arthur Ashe. His strength and endurance made a very strong impression at that time.

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The game against Rafa in 2018 is one of my best memories: I always want to do good in New York.

This is the main reason why the Russians are always hopeful for the US Open. “The game against Rafa in 2018, the emotions, the adrenaline… It’s one of my fondest memories on the pitch, so I always want to do good in New York.“, he admits again. And in these two weeks it’s clear that everything is going well. After two unconvincing first games, but after winning, Khachanov left Briton Jack Draper in the 3rd round – full progress and friend of Félix Auger – Aliassime – as two men engage in a fierce battle.

Then came his opponent’s true turning point in the final round of 16: a battle against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, which was won in five sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3). he has recently been a two-time semi-finalist at Montreal and at the US Open. After this victory, Khachanov gained all the necessary confidence to take down Nick Kyrgios, who nevertheless exaggerated a perfect dynamic. He impressed physically and with his ability to maintain a consistently high level of play. And this is no accident.

Lacking Wimbledon, like all Russian compatriots and Belarusians, the 26-year-old golgoth was kind of good-hearted in the face of bad luck. He decided to take advantage of this mandatory break, this time freed up on his schedule to arrive in Flushing in better physical form. “We had time to relax and train at Wimbledon in July. And it kind of paid off. Even though I didn’t get very good results in Masters 1000 preparations, I still believed my game was there.“, thus revealing before challenging Kyrgios.

Khachanov’s big comeback: Carreno knocked out Busta in 5 sets

Mandatory timeout at Wimbledon ultimately beneficial

And Khachanov to clarify: “I rested for 12 days with my family, wife and son. We went on vacation. Then I did three weeks of intense training, it was like a mini off-season like we do in the winter. Then I went to clay in Hamburg so that the non-competitive break would not be too long. Before heading to Washington for a tour of North America

The result: In addition to developing his usual strength, the Russian player has more spring in his legs to serve (88 aces, 30 of them against Kyrgios in the quarterfinals since the start of the tournament) or make long rallies from the back of the court. and limit the number of non-essential errors. It’s simple: Khachanov made fewer mistakes than Carreno Busta (32 to 43), but he’s a metronome in change. Same ball in the quarter where he finished the game with an ultra-positive odds and more than double the win (63 to 31 mandatory errors).

Faster on the ball and therefore more outspoken, Khachanov has plenty of time to think about the structure of his numbers. He may become a caricature of himself on his bad days – hit him hard and see what happens next – he’s making wiser choices these days. He is a chess lover – a game he often works with, José Manuel Clavet, one of his coaches – paying more attention to his playing patterns.

That’s fine, against Casper Ruud, a beast of rigor and a well-oiled machine on a physical level, Khachanov will have to have clear ideas. But on the way, it would be wrong not to believe in his star. “since Rafa (Nadal) eliminated, it’s pretty obvious because everyone thinks there’s an opportunity to get the trophy, finally observed. I might even say that it raises everyone’s level..” And especially his own.

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