Khachanov cruises into maiden Aus Open quarterfinal

AFTER reaching at least the last eight in the other three majors, Russian Karen Khachanov has broken his drought at the Australian Open, securing a spot in the quarterfinals following an emphatic win over Yoshihito Nishioka. The 18th seed was playing in his first ever fourth round match at Melbourne Park yesterday, having frustratingly reached the Round of 32 the past four years but never able to get past that feat.

Finally in his seventh attempt, Khachanov was able to reach the last eight, and the 18th seed did it without breaking a sweat for the first two sets. Incredibly, Khachanov stormed to a two sets to love lead without dropping a game. He won the first two sets 6-0 6-0 and only lost two points in the second set and 13 to that point. Though 31st seed Nishioka hit back, the Russian steadied to win the third set in a tiebreaker, 7-4.

“First two sets I didn’t know what was going on, but it’s never easy when you’re going with the score too easy.,” Khachanov said. “You feel it, and then at one point you actually try to turn it around pump up the crowd and it’s normal. I tried to stay focused all the match from the beginning with this score three straight sets. The third set was a really tough one. I’m playing well so I’m really happy to go through.”

When asked post-match how he was able to stay focused with the crowd cheering on a comeback, Khachanov joked “I don’t want to tell you the secrets”.

“To be honest with you, that’s what mental toughness is and you try to stay focused all the match even though it doesn’t go your way and some points goes up and down,” he said. “I think the belief and self-confidence helps you to go all the way.”

His quarterfinal appearance in 2023 is not the only drought he broke, with his unusual John Cain Arena losing streak also snapped.

“Until this year I lost all the matches on John Cain Arena,” Khachanov said. “This year I won three so let’s stay like this, so far it’s going well. Maybe I can play quarter finals here, and the crowd will support me, I’m like a locker favourite.”

The Russian has not had it easy in the tournament, beating Australian fan favourite Jason Kubler in the second round, and universally liked Frances Tiafoe in the Round of 32. By reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, Khachanov has moved up to 17th in the world, and can re-enter the Top 10 – his career-high is eighth – with an unlikely Grand Slam title. As for what it would take to get there, Khachanov said he was taking it one match at a time.

“First of all I need to focus and win the quarter finals to try and go deeper,” he said. “I think the most important is to prepare every match and to believe until the end that you can do it. I think the semi-finals of the US Open showed me really well where I can be, what I can do and I try and continue that way. I think the US Open gave me a lot of confidence and I think I rely on that and I hope I can continue that way.”

Khachanov takes on red-hot giant-killer Sebastian Korda in the quarterfinal on Tuesday for a spot in the last four.

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