This tournament debutant has his eyes on the prize

We speak to world number eleven Karen Khachanov ahead of his Abu Dhabi-debut at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. 

You defeated four top ten players and went on to win the Paris Masters this year – how was that experience for you and will you carry that forward into the new season? 

“That was the biggest title and success of my career so far and to finish the year winning in Paris was really positive for me. I managed to beat four of the top ten players on the road to win it, my first Masters title, and I’m really proud of the level I showed, the tennis I played and I hope it motivates me to work harder and win these titles more often in the future.

You won against Novak Djokovic in the final, who at that time hadn’t lost since July. How did you approach that match and how proud were you about getting that result? 

“First of all I’m really happy I played this final against the world number one. Being able to play against people of the stature of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is amazing because you’re playing at the highest level in the world’s biggest tournaments. Winning against Novak was great and was a great way to end a successful tournament.”

Last year was something of a breakthrough season for you as you reached the last 16 of some of the world’s biggest tournaments and end by winning in Paris. How pleased are you with last year? 

“At the beginning of the year, I had short and long-term goals including finishing as high as possible in the rankings, hopefully in the top 25 or 20 and if it was possible to finish higher. In general, I’m happy I had a really consistent year, I was going deep into tournaments and winning some matches but only really losing to players in the top ten. In the match against Nadal in New York, I was upset that I didn’t get the win but at the same time it showed me I was at a good level and if I continued to play in the same way and work harder sooner or later it will turn on my side. That’ the approach I still have now.”

How are your preparations for next year going and has your victory at the Paris Masters increased expectations? 

“Of course, you have to deal with this kind of pressure in sport and you have to believe in yourself, push and show that you can do it. The goal is always to try to improve, to be a better player and hopefully with this can take me to the next level.”

You’re a resident of the UAE, living in Dubai, how much are you looking forward to your debut in Abu Dhabi and do you think your fans here in the UAE help drive you on? 

“I like to be in the UAE and the fans are always great there. This will be the first time I will play in Abu Dhabi and I hope that the fans will get behind me and support me during the matches. It’s great when the fans are with you and cheering for you it gives you great energy and motivation. I’m working hard, even harder than I was before, to improve my game – that is what I’m focussing on right now. [Mubadala World Tennis Championship] is a great tournament and I’ve heard a lot of positive things about it and Abu Dhabi.”

WORDS Colin Armstrong

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