NEW YORK — Karen Khachanov stood on court, arms raised, basking in a rowdy crowd’s cheers after reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open. Not far away, Nick Kyrgios took out some of his frustration at the so-close-yet-so-far result on a pair of rackets.
First, shortly after the last point of his 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 loss to Khachanov, Kyrgios cracked his piece of equipment against the ground – once, twice, three, four times. Then, for good measure, Kyrgios grabbed yet another racket out of his bag, reared back and hit that one on the sideline, too.
Kyrgios could not quite follow up his victory over defending champion Daniil Medvedev at Flushing Meadows, bowing out in a high-quality, topsy-turvy quarterfinal in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s just devastating. Like, it’s heartbreaking,” said Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia who was the runner-up at Wimbledon in July. “Pretty much every other tournament during the year is a waste of time, really. You should just run up and show up at a Grand Slam. That’s what you’re remembered by.”
Asked about Kyrgios’ display of disappointment, Khachanov said he saw “rackets were flying,” and added: “I feel the pain for him.”
Early in the match, two spectators were kicked out after one gave the other a haircut in the stands. By the end, the late-staying spectators were pulling for Kyrgios loudly. At one point in the fourth set, chair umpire James Keothavong pleaded: “Once again, ladies and gentlemen: Respect both the players.”
“I was prepared. I was expecting that the crowd would be more for him, that he was the favorite in their eyes,” said the No. 27-seeded Khachanov had been 0-2 in major quarterfinals before this one against No. 23 Kyrgios.
Khachanov will face No. 5 Casper Ruud for a berth in the championship match.
“I’m really proud of myself,” Khachanov said. “I was really focused from the beginning to the end.”
Both he and Kyrgios are equipped with booming serves, and they combined for 61 aces (31 by Kyrgios). They combined for 138 total winners (75 by Kyrgios).
Two stats that were real difference-makers: Kyrgios made 58 unforced errors, Khachanov 31. And Khachanov saved 7 of 9 break points he faced.
The breakthrough at Wimbledon, and two recent victories over No. 1 Medvedev – including in the fourth round, ending his title defense – made Kyrgios a popular pick to claim his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.
Khachanov was not allowed to play at Wimbledon this year after the All England Club banned all players from his country, Russia, and Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Against Kyrgios, he picked up key breaks of serve in the last game of the first and third sets. After the opener, Kyrgios complained of a sore knee and was visited by a trainer.
He did not appear to show any ill effects once play resumed, and broke early in the second.
Kyrgios had a chance to break again at 4-all in the third, but couldn’t convert, flubbing a forehand, then spiked his racket. Two games later, he put a backhand into the net to drop that set, then sat in his changeover chair, dumped his racket and threw a drink, drawing a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct from Keothavong.
Khachanov came within two points of victory while ahead 6-5 as Kyrgios served in the fourth set. Kyrgios held on there and dominated the ensuing tiebreaker to force a fifth.
Then Khachanov broke to begin the last set, soon was up 3-1 and was on his way.
“The deeper you go, the expectations rise up,” he said. “I did a step forward.”
In the quarterfinals, it’ll be No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 11 Jannik Sinner, and No. 9 Andrey Rublev vs. No. 22 Frances Tiafoe.
None of the last eight men in the bracket has won a major title.
Ruud headed into the 2022 season with just one Grand Slam appearance that lasted as far as the fourth round anywhere and was determined to improve his record at the four most important events in tennis.
Then, a day before the Australian Open began in January, he twisted his ankle in practice and needed to withdraw. Hardly ideal. Just look at him now: Ruud is into the semifinals at the U.S. Open and has a shot at moving up to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, following a run to the final at the French Open.
The 23-year-old from Norway – who is coached by his father, former professional player Christian – parlayed what he called “a better start than I ever had before in a match” to a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini.
“During Paris, something clicked, and I feel like I, this year, have sort of figured out the better way how to play five sets and knowing that it’s very different from playing best-of-three sets. … Sometimes realizing, or knowing, that you can sort of let one set go every once in a while to save some energy for the rest of the sets,” said Ruud, 12-2 in Grand Slam play in 2022. “So I think I matured.”