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Advanced Edition: Can Karen Khachanov sunset the Summer of Nick Kyrgios at US Open?
The Olympic silver medalist surged into his first major quarterfinal of the season after missing Wimbledon, and next aims to avenge countryman Daniil Medvedev’s defeat to the inspired Aussie on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Published Sep 05, 2022
WATCH: Khachanov returned to action at Hamburg after missing Wimbledon, reaching the quarterfinals.
NEW YORK—Nick Kyrgios brought the house down on Arthur Ashe Stadium when he stunned world No. 1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night. On the brink of his second straight Grand Slam semifinal, the Aussie will next face similarly imposing opposition in Karen Khachanov, a former world No. 8/Liam Hemsworth lookalike who has thus far brought down the hammer on opponents in Flushing Meadows.
Fresh off defeating two-time US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreño Busta, can the 26-year-old rediscover the form that helped him earn a silver medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics?
Get to know one of the game’s most brutal baseliners:
Why He’ll Win
The ATP has witnessed a Russian revolution in the last five years, and though Medvedev has long led a troika that also includes Andrey Rublev, Khachanov was the first to break through in 2017, barreling into the second week of Roland Garros with back-to-back wins over Tomas Berdych and John Isner.
His star rose even higher the following season when he ended the year with his first Masters 1000 title in Paris-Bercy, defeating Isner, Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem before knocking out Novak Djokovic in a straight-set final.
It's a question of winning matches and keep doing what I have to do. It shows to myself that everything is possible. I'm right now in a good state of mind, good level of tennis. Karen Khachanov
“He deserves it,” said Djokovic, who played a long semifinal with Roger Federer the previous day. “He's a young player up and coming. But already established player, top player. And he showed great quality today and he showed why we're going to see a lot of him in the future.”
Djokovic’s assessment initially proved prescient, but elite results ultimately proved elusive over the next two seasons: from ending 2019 ranked No. 11, Khachanov was outside the Top 30 by last fall despite reaching a second major quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
After a slow start to 2022, Khachanov was finally feeling in form by spring, defeating Cameron Norrie to reach the fourth round in Paris and earning back-to-back quarterfinals on grass. But hopes of replicating his Wimbledon run were dashed when the All England Club announced its ban of Russian and Belarusian players.
Like many of his colleagues unable to enter the third major of the season, Khachanov took the opportunity to reset and regroup.
“I had time to rest so I think I had 12 days off completely with my family, with my wife and my son,” he said on Sunday. “Went for vacation time. Then we basically had almost three weeks hard training block like we do in off-season, kind of mini pre-season.”
The effort has paid off at the US Open, where he had never been past the third round. Against a familiar foe in Carreño Busta, Khachanov held firm despite a late charge from the Spaniard to roar into the last eight in just under three and a half hours on Louis Armstrong.
“Even though in the two Masters I didn't do so well in terms of results, but still I was believing that my game is there,” he explained. “It's a question of winning matches and keep doing what I have to do. It shows to myself that everything is possible.
“I'm right now in a good state of mind, good level of tennis.”
What To Watch Out For
Will any amount of positive vibes be enough to derail the Nick Kyrgios Show? The Wimbledon runner-up has lost no motivation in the wake of reaching his first major final, winning the Citi Open title and defeating Medvedev in Montréal before repeating the feat in the fourth round.
“Nick said by himself that he doesn't recognize himself in a way how professional he is right now,” remarked Khachanov.
“I think the Wimbledon showed him if he does the things like he does now which kind of level he has, what he's capable of. Obviously, everybody knows that, the way he's serving.”
The serve was indeed essential in dethroning the defending champion: Kyrgios struck 21 aces and managed to make 43% of his serves utterly unreturnable. Managing 71% of first serves over four sets, saved five of eight break point opportunities to book a third meeting with Khachanov.
I like New York City and I like the energy of the crowd, the way they entertain. I had good memories from the years before, playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, as well. It's not like something new, but always great when you go through and you have your best performance. Karen Khachanov
The two have split two previous meetings, with Kyrgios winning their most recent at the 2020 Australian Open in five sets—though their famously explosive 2019 Cincy encounter also went the distance.
“I think the thing would be the same for me,” he said of his strategy. “Focus on serve, keep the serve. In rallies we have the same, equal chances. It will be always the question of how the point starts, with the serve and return.”
Khachanov also plans to channel his own big-stage experience on Tuesday.
“I like New York City and I like the energy of the crowd, the way they entertain. I had good memories from the years before, playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, as well. It's not like something new, but always great when you go through and you have your best performance.”
Provided he can get the first strike with his extreme-grip forehand, this match could end up being even more entertaining than Sunday night’s clash of the titans—with the winner in position to make a serious play for the US Open title.