Karen Khachanov hails 'positive three days' at Mubadala World Tennis Championship after beating Dominic Thiem
Russian downs Austrian opponent 6-4, 4-6 and then 10-3 in champion's tie-break as he shifts focus to Australian Open
Karen Khachanov believes his three matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship have been "positive" for his preparations for the 2019 season and the Australian Open.
The world No 11 signed off from the event in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with a victory against Dominic Thiem in an exhibition match, coming out on top 6-3, 4-6, 10-3.
The Russian had been due to play Rafael Nadal in a play-off for third place, but that had been cancelled after the Spaniard had withdrawn from the event on Friday night to rest following his semi-final loss to Kevin Anderson.
Thiem, who Khachanov had beaten in Thursday's quarter-final clash, was called up as a replacement and the 22 year old beat the world No 8 for the second time in three days.
"Positive three days here," Khachanov said of how he had enjoyed his first time at the event at the International Tennis Stadium at Zayed Sports City.
"I practised here and played real matches so it is a great way to start the season."
Khachanov, who lost to world No 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the semi-finals, felt spending time on court with two top 10 players had allowed him the chance to not only get his own game going again after the off-season, but also experience some variety on the other side of the net.
"OK, I played against Dominic twice and once against Novak," he said of his schedule.
"They are different opponents and different styles of play and to play real matches with them here has been great for me.
"Today was a good match. I think we had some nice and exciting rallies."
It had initially looked as if the match would be a repeat of Thursday with Khachanov cruising to the win.
Having survived an early break point, Khachanov had taken charge of the match as two successive breaks of serve gave him the set.
But to Thiem's credit, having not only lost to Khachanov in straight sets on Thursday but also to Hyeon Chung in the play-off for fifth place on Friday, he hit back.
He won an epic ninth game of the second set, which lasted 19 points and included seven deuces, to finally break the Khachanov serve, and he went to claim the set.
Khachanov said of that setback: "I had a few chances opportunities in the first few games, there was a few times it was 0-30 on his serve.
"I didn't take them and after a tough game at 4-4 again I missed some shots and he played some good points and he got the break."
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But that proved to be a false dawn as the champion's tie-break, played instead of a third set, was dominated by Khachanov.
After the first two points had been shared he won the next seven and he went on clinch the tie-break 10-3 to complete his double over his Austrian opponent.
The time in Abu Dhabi was part of Khachanov's preparations for the Australian Open, the first major of the season, where he will be seeded for the first time when it starts on January 14.
But with his previous best effort in Melbourne being the second round, reached in both 2017 and 2018, he believes he will still have to be at his best to go further this time around.
"It always depends on your game and your level," he said. "If you play bad, even if you are 11 or 35 you will not go deep you know.
"Of course it helps to not face the top eight in the first three rounds, then if you play good you play them in the later rounds."
Updated: December 29, 2018 08:07 PM