A Teenager Making Waves In Moscow
At a time when there are 29 players over 30 years of age in the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, it is refreshing to witness a teenager making headlines on the ATP World Tour.
Karen Khachanov only left high school in May this year. But aged 17 and 6’6”, the Russian is already being touted as a star of the future.
Former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who now works as a Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow tournament manager, told ATPWorldTour.com, “He will be Top 20 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings] by end of 2015, and that’s my prediction.”
This week, Khachanov has beaten Albert Ramos and Janko Tipsarevic en route to the Moscow quarter-finals. It is just his second ATP World Tour tournament and the third senior-level event of his career.
The last 17 year old to reach the last eight of an ATP World Tour event was Kei Nishikori in July 2007 at Indianapolis.
It would seem that Khachanov is learning fast. Just a few weeks after he reached the St. Petersburg Open second round (d. Hanescu, l. to Rosol), he has once again made the most of a wild card.
“It has been a good bonus to see what I can do against the pros,” Khachanov told ATPWorldTour.com. “It has given me the confidence and the opportunity to play better. In St. Petersburg, I didn’t really have any pressure. This week, because of the matches that I have played, I am more confident.
“I didn’t really believe I had beaten Tipsarevic [on Wednesday]. I didn’t over-celebrate as I respect Janko and know that I have to work harder to improve.”
Kafelnikov, who was watching courtside, assessed Khachanov’s performance.
“I watched him play yesterday for the first time [against Tipsarevic] and I don’t say this, a lot, about many people, but this kid is the real deal. He doesn’t have the junior game anymore and he definitely knows what he’s doing on the court… and that’s very impressive.
“He has good ground strokes. He moves well and serves big. He’s solid off both wings and hits many winners. His demeanour is very good and he has the whole package.”
Khachanov, a fan of “big servers such as Marat Safin and Juan Martin del Potro”, trains Moscow and Split with Goran Ivanisevic’s former coach Vedran Martic. His uncle, who acts as his manager, has also been a great help.
He started playing tennis at the age of three, when “my parents took me to tennis classes” and has been travelling on the international junior circuit since he was 13. This year, Khachanov beat Nick Kyrgios in the Roland Garros second round and won the under-18 European Junior Championships.
Although he recently started a sports education course at a Russian university, he admits that his time won’t be taken up by too much homework. “I only have two classes a year,” he said. The course will allow him to focus on tennis.
Khachanov is level-headed and conservative about his goals.
“In the next 12 months, I will try to improve my ranking. I will play in ATP Challenger Tour events, cut down my junior commitments and continue to do my best.”
On Friday, he will face one of the tour’s biggest servers, Ivo Karlovic, for a spot in the Moscow semi-finals. Karlovic played his first ATP World Tour tournament in 2001 at Tashkent, when Khachanov was five years old.