Khachanov stuns Djokovic to win first Paris Masters title

Getty Images
0 Comments

PARIS — Karen Khachanov upset a tired-looking Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4 to win the Paris Masters title and deprive Djokovic of the chance on Sunday to match Rafael Nadal’s record of 33 Masters titles.

Djokovic, a record four-time champion at the indoor event, looked out of energy after an epic three-hour semifinal win against Roger Federer on Saturday.

After also being taken to three sets by Marin Cilic in Friday’s quarterfinals, Djokovic’s semifinal finished at around 8 p.m. He felt he was unable to recover sufficiently from that draining encounter.

“I didn’t unfortunately. But I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. “I want to talk about how well (Khachanov) played all week and absolutely deserved to win today.”

Asked again whether it was also a case of emotional and mental fatigue, after such an intense tussle with Federer, Djokovic repeated his praise for Khachanov.

“Karen played really well and he deserved to win,” Djokovic said. “All the credit to him.”

Although Djokovic broke in the fourth game to move 3-1 up and then led 30-0 on serve, the unseeded Khachanov broke him straight back and the momentum abruptly shifted away from Djokovic.

“I make a couple of unforced errors and just played a bad game,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately, I just didn’t have that little extra.”

The Serb seemed agitated at times and twice turned to his box to remonstrate about an unspecified issue during the first set.

Khachanov broke for 6-5 when he hit a powerful shot down the line that Djokovic could only scoop back into the net. The unseeded Russian won the first set with a big first serve that Djokovic could not return, stretching out his racket in vain as the fizzing ball clipped the frame.

Djokovic struggled to handle Khachanov’s brutal two-handed, cross-court backhands from the baseline, which often landed near his ankles, and dropped his serve again to trail 2-1 in the second set. He had to save three more break points in the seventh game to hold for 4-3 down.

“He was playing big from the back of the court, flat backhands and forehand. He can really hurt you,” Djokovic said. “His serve is really, really strong and precise.”

After both players held to love, Khachanov showed no nerves – even though he was in his first Masters final – and served out the match.

He secured victory on his first match point when Djokovic chopped a backhand return wide. The imposing Russian thrust both his arms in the air and, moments later, knelt down to kiss the court.

Djokovic will return to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time in two years on Monday, but he will be disappointed at missing out on a 73rd career title, having withstood the best of Federer on Saturday.

Still, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion has plenty to feel good about after a 22-match winning streak, and he remains favorite for the season-ending ATP Finals in London, beginning Nov. 11.

“I’m satisfied of course and I’m going to be No. 1 tomorrow. What more can I ask for? I mean, I won 20-plus matches in a row and had a most amazing last five months,” he said. “I’m getting into (the) season finale feeling good about my game.”

The 22-year-old Khachanov, ranked 18th, is the first Russian to win here since Nikolay Davydekno in 2006. Marat Safin won it three times before that.

Khachanov added this title to the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month for his third title of the year and fourth overall.

He has won all of his four finals.

“We’re going to see a lot of him in the future,” Djokovic said.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

Getty Images
0 Comments

The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

Getty Images
1 Comment

HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.