WATCH: Khachanov returned to action after missing Wimbledon in Hamburg, where he reached the quarterfinals.

NEW YORK—Karen Khachanov is full of adrenaline for his on-court interview, only minutes removed from a five-set victory US Open against Nick Kyrgios that took both into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. He sucks in his cheeks and sarcastically applauds a crowd that largely didn’t want him to win, speaking quickly to a high-energy Brad Gilbert as the clock ticked well past 1 a.m.

Gilbert works overtime to get a smile from the 6’6” Russian, and is finally rewarded when asked about his expectations for the semifinals against Casper Ruud.

“I mean, I would like to win it,” laughs Khachanov and the stoic façade briefly fades to the delight of those remaining on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“The deeper you go, the higher the expectations rises up," he says, suddenly all movie star. "I did the step forward and made the first semifinal. I think I don’t have nothing to lose. I just want to go for it, try to be ready for the next match, and hopefully it will be a good one.”

Elaborating on the idea only slightly more in his post-match press conference, it becomes immediately apparent that Khachanov’s media game is as blunt as his backhand.

“I just did it,” he explains just before 2 a.m. “I did the step forward. I made my first semifinal, so it's pretty in my head. I'm just really happy.”


Khachanov employed a fairly simple game plan against the on-fire Aussie: see ball, hit ball. Employing a flat and heavy approach, his game hinges on an extreme-grip forehand that requires precise timing and an ideal strike zone.

Kyrgios, perhaps encumbered by the opportunity to reach a second straight Grand Slam semifinal, opted not to replicate the reckless aggression that simply dismantled world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in the previous round, instead hoping errors from his often-erratic opponent would help him over the finish line.

The plan literally played into Khachanov’s hands, repeatedly setting him up for the sort of booming forehands that made him a hot prospect when roared to his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris three years ago, helping him earn a career-high ranking of world No. 8.

“I stayed there. I waited for my chances. I created them, as well,” he says simply.

Not looking to extend rallies on or off the court, Khachanov even eschewed the opportunity to castigate a rowdy late-night crowd in favor of brevity—recalling a similarly rowdy night match against Rafael Nadal.

“I was expecting that the crowd would be more for him, that he was the favorite in their eyes. I don't get upset on that.

“I knew what I have to do, how focused I have to stay. Just to deliver a good match. That's what I did basically.”


Even though I'm young, I sort of feel like I'm going into what could be considered, like sort of that I'm halfway in my professional career already. Casper Ruud

Khachanov’s short takebacks and even shorter comebacks both stand in stark contrast to next opponent Casper Ruud, who has an endearing flair for the superfluous.

“My father was fairly young when I was born,” Ruud says, taking a question about father and coach Christian all the way back to the womb.

“He enjoyed taking me, you know, playing around with me, and I think from the very early age, I enjoyed it too and had that sort of competitive mindset that I wanted to be as good as I could be.”

He assuredly bears no malice in his bloviation; he’s just an incredibly tightly wound 23-year-old—one who openly admits to feeling the athletic equivalent of middle-aged.

“Even though I'm young, I sort of feel like I'm going into what could be considered, like sort of that I'm halfway in my professional career already.”

Typically on tour with only his father, Ruud is in New York with sisters Caroline and Charlotte, both of whom have perhaps provided a grounding influence through Casper’s time in the city—even co-signing a cheat meal with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts.


Since [Nadal] was out, I would say it was quite open for all the guys because everybody kind of see that there is opportunity to take the trophy. I would say maybe it even increased the level for everyone. Karen Khachanov

“It's fun some days throughout the year to let go of that, do something else, be a normal person,” he mused after defeating Tommy Paul in five sets in the third round. “If junk food is your thing, playing golf is your thing, I don't know, whatever it is, I think we all sort of do it a couple days a year.”

Ruud and Khachanov have only faced off once before, at the 2020 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where the Norwegian began his rise up the rankings with a first Masters 1000 semifinal. A second win over the Russian would give him a shot a becoming world No. 1.

But Rafael Nadal’s fourth-round exit guaranteed a maiden major champion, an opportunity Khachanov—who was unable to defend his 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinal due to the All England Club’s Russian/Belarusian ban—predicts no one will easily pass up.

“I would say maybe it even increased the level for everyone,” he said shortly before leaving the press room, clearly eager to put a period on the tournament by winning his first Grand Slam trophy.