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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Karen Khachanov vows to bring his best game to Abu Dhabi for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Russian No 1 is set to make his debut at the tournament later this month and faces Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals

Karen Khachanov after winning the biggest title of his career so far at the Paris Masters. AFP
Karen Khachanov after winning the biggest title of his career so far at the Paris Masters. AFP

Karen Khachanov has said he is looking forward to the prospect of facing Rafael Nadal at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) as the Russian No 1 prepares to make his debut at the Abu Dhabi tournament later this month.

Khachanov, 22, enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season in 2018, climbing to world No 11 – having started the season ranked 45th – and winning the biggest title of his career at the Paris Masters in November.

The Russian’s success in the French capital, where he defeated four top 10 players including top seed Novak Djokovic in the final, was his third title of the year following wins at the Marseille Open and Kremlin Cup.

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Spending the off-season “working harder than ever”, Khachanov will continue his preparations for 2019 as part of the six-player MWTC, which takes place December 27-29 at Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre.

Khachanov will be joined by the world’s top two players, Djokovic and Nadal. Defending champion and world No 6 Kevin Anderson, French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, and Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung complete the line-up.

Khachanov will take on Thiem in the opening day’s second quarter-final, with the winner to face Djokovic in the semi-final. If he can emulate his Paris Masters result, Khachanov could set up a final meeting with Nadal, who edged out the Russian in a high-quality contest at the US Open in August.

“I honestly think [the US Open match] was one of my best of the year – lots of exciting rallies and great sportsmanship,” Khachanov told The National. “It was a great match and I was happy I could show this level during the whole match. If it’s possible that we meet in Abu Dhabi that would be great and for sure I will try to bring my best game.”

Khachanov proved last season that his “best game” was more than a match for the established elite of men’s tennis, and his victory in Paris has given him even more belief in his abilities.

“I was really happy to play this kind of final against the best player in the world, and to know I can compete against guys like Roger [Federer], Rafa, Novak, Andy [Murray], Stan [Wawrinka], and [Juan] Del Potro,” he said.

“When I was young I was watching them play and now I am competing against them at the highest level."

Having exceeded his own expectations last season – Khachanov had set out to crack the top-25 – he is being more flexible with his goals for 2019, although he is aware that any future success will depend on hard work.

“The goals can change depending how the year goes,” he said. “At the moment I’m in pre-season working harder than ever before. If I continue to play at the same level or even better, there is the potential to always achieve better.

"That’s the main goal. If I keep playing the way I’m playing I hope it will give me even more results and I will be even higher.”