WASHINGTON - Russia has quickly become one of the top tennis superstar-producing countries in the world. Russia is the only nationality to have two players currently in the top-10 world rankings and both are on the verge of breaking through.
Leading the Russian brigade is Karen Khachanov, a 23-year-old right-handed player on the best stretch of his career.
He’s reached his highest world ranking, No. 8, with three of his four ATP titles coming late last year.
As a part of the next generation of players to eventually unset the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal, Khachanov is one that continues to rise.
Last year he entered the Citi Open in Washington D.C. with a No. 37 ranking. With the aforementioned titles and a quarterfinal run at the French Open, he’s propelled himself to his career-high ranking, past former Grand Slam winners Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka.
As time has circled around to the Citi Open once again, a lot has changed for Khachanov. There’s more press, higher expectations, a child on the way, and more opportunities. While all of this is happening he tries to keep everything he does in his approach the same.
“It depends from which angle we look. On one side yes, I'm top-10 right now, and this is, again, a great milestone, great achievement, in the top 10 of the best players in the world,” Khachanov told NBC Sports Washington. “From another side, expectations, they go much higher, so the higher you go as higher expectations growing. So, from that side is, it's a more difficult, for media as well, people are expecting maybe you succeed more often than bigger tournaments.”
Along the way, he’s continuing to garner wins against the top players in the world. His biggest was against 16-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic back in the 2018 Paris Masters Final.
The win gave him his first-ever Masters 1,000 title, the second tier of tournaments behind the four majors.
Other notable wins include one over del Potro to reach the French Open quarterfinals. Although del Potro was one of his idols growing up, those matches are no different for the Russian.
“[It’s] the same when I played against Novak and any other top guy, because, when I was young, I was watching them on TV and then you're playing in the big tournaments against them,” Khachanov said. “So it’s a great feeling, great motivation from being a kid. And, yeah, I just, I just want to try to give it all, when I play those kinds of clashes, especially against top guys.”
The results are continuing to build for Khachanov, reaching the first peak of his career.
But not only has he gained momentum on the court but back in March 2019 he became an Aurora Goodwill Ambassador. As a Goodwill Ambassador, Khachanov is one of 149 leaders from diverse backgrounds and fields of work looking to tackle global challenges.
The lone member of the Forum on the ATP tour, Khachanov is hoping to add his perspective to the conversation.
“I would like help Aurora to expand this exciting network, by raising awareness through a number of publicity efforts involving myself in the program of events for the October forum, and offering advice and ideas, and my experience will be held in providing a different perspective, hopefully,” Khachanov said.
For Khachanov the success did not continue in this year’s edition of the Citi Open. Receiving a bye into the Second Round he fell to former world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets. Last year he also exited the event due to an early-round loss.
But like many of his opponents, the Citi Open serves as a tune-up tournament for the U.S Open Series. The next two stops, the Rogers Cup and the Western and Southern Open are the biggest tests before the final major in 2019. So far we’ve only seen the beginning of what Khachanov is becoming.
Each year he continues to build on the momentum for the previous one. While we didn’t see him make a run in Washington D.C., there are sure to be many more in the future.
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