Russia’s Karen Khachanov poses with the trophy after winning against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the men’s singles final tennis match on day seven of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 – Rolex Paris Masters – indoor tennis tournament at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris, on November 4, 2018. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
There are nine tournaments in the ATP Masters series with each adding 1000 points to the winner. This is the tier where players amass ranking points, as the 2000-point Grand Slams occur only four times a year. There was a lot at stake in the build-up to this year’s ninth Masters contested for at the indoor hard-court of Paris Arena.
At the conclusion, however, the stunning upset victory of Russia’s lanky Khachanov generated ripples that have raised the Paris show above all others. In addition, it might have heralded the change of guards between two generations of players.How he did it. The 16 seeded players drew byes into the second round. Karen, as world number 18, had to play first round and defeated the Serbian Filip Krajinovic 7/5, 6/2. He did not have to play a full second round match, as Australia’s Matthew Ebden dropped out after losing the first set and two games thereafter.
However, it was a battle royal against John Isner in the third round where two points separated them in final set tie-break, ending 10-8. In the quarterfinals, he had an easy 6/1, 6/2 victory over one of the heirs-apparent and fourth seed, Alexander Zverev and followed it with a 6/4, 6/1 semifinal victory over the sixth seeded Dominic Thiem, another hopeful in the next generation.
After Djokovic defeated Federer in a thrilling semifinal, he seemed invincible and his opponent said, “Novak is definitely on a roll. You can feel it. He protects his service well.”
The title meant a lot to Djokovic. Although already assured to move to number one, he was aiming to equal Nadal’s haul of 33 Masters level titles and his fourth in Paris. He also hoped to sustain his streak of winning 22 consecutive matches in the season.
With that resume, he was the overwhelming favourite over his 22-year old opponent from Moscow, whom he had beaten in their only previous career meeting on the grass courts of London.
With his achievement in Paris, Khachanov rose from 18 to 11 in the rankings and will be the first pick for the end of season finals in case of withdrawal by any of the top 10 players already guaranteed to compete in London. Above all, Karen Khachanov demonstrated that he is at the vanguard of the next generation of champions in the sport.