Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

'Confident' Karen Khachanov determined to prove himself again in 2019

The Russian ended 2018 season on a high by beating Novak Djokovic in Paris, but it is now all about the new year for him, starting with the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Karen Khachanov had a winning end to 2018 in Paris but the Russian's focus is now solely on 2019. AFP
Karen Khachanov had a winning end to 2018 in Paris but the Russian's focus is now solely on 2019. AFP

The 2018 ATP season ended on a real high for Karen Khachanov.

The Russian has long been seen as one of the future stars of the men's game in tennis and he underlined his potential with a stunning week at the Paris Masters in November.

He defeated four top 10 players, including world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the final, on his way to winning the Masters 1000 event, the biggest title of his career to date.

But, if you expected Khachanov to be basking in the glory of his success in the French capital then you would be wrong.

Ahead of making his debut at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, where he will take on Dominic Thiem, the 22 year old said that as far as he was concerned 2019 is beginning with a clean slate.

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"This is a new season," he said. "It will start from zero for everybody. You have to again prove that you are good and you have to get these results. Of course I am feeling more confident right now. But everything starts from zero."

Khachanov's strong end to the season, which also saw him win the Kremlin Cup in Russia in October, defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final, saw him end the year at a career high of No 11 in the ATP rankings.

He had begun the year at No 45 but Khachanov does not believe the fact he made so much progress in 2018 will mean he will automatically break into the top 10 in 2019.

"It always depends on the draw, how good you will play and if you play well the numbers of the ranking will show better," he said.

Khachanov believes the depth of the men's game means he cannot take anything for granted despite the fact he will be seeded at the leading events next year. He also says he must maintain his high level if he is to continue challenging for titles.

"It depends on you and how good you will play," he said. "You can be seeded and not get the top matches because all the players in the top 100, or even lower, are playing good. So you have to be focused with every match and try to play well."

The sign of Khachanov's rise in the game is his invitation to play at the MWTC for the first time, and he was relishing his surroundings on Wednesday as he spoke about his expectations for his match with Thiem, the world No 8 who he defeated in straight sets in Paris in November in the semi-finals.

"Great hotel, good weather, sun, that is the most important thing, right," he laughed. "I'm in a good mood.

"Off-season went well, a lot of hard work has been done. Not as long as in previous years but that is a good sign because I had a great year last year and I finish a little later."

Djokovic, whose unbeaten 22-match run Khachanov ended in Paris with his 7-5, 4-6 success, will be his semi-final opponent if he is successful against Thiem.

While targeting winning his matches in Abu Dhabi, Khachanov said he will be looking to experiment on parts of his game during the tournament as he looks to improve in 2019.

"I will try to bring my game altogether," he said. "In the season you work a lot and you work hard and you are a little more tired so there are aspects of the game to try to work on.

"I want to try and show good tennis and go to Doha [the Qatar Open] with good feelings for the beginning of the year."

Khachanov was coy on what he has been working on, saying "a little bit of everything" but he did acknowledge that fitness and cardio were areas he was focusing on.

"Physical aspect is one of the most important," he said. "You have to try to play the top guys at a high level for a lot of hours."

Updated: December 26, 2018 03:52 PM

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