Novak Djokovic will hope to keep up with winning run when he takes on Karen Khachanov in the final of the 2018 Paris Masters.
It wasn’t the easiest passage for Djokovic through to this title-decider but sometimes, as they say, you got to win ugly. And that’s exactly how he came through to the final, beating arch-rival and Swiss maestro Roger Federer in a tough, three-set semi-final.
Djokovic won 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 after letting go of two chances to break Federer in the second set at 5-5.
In doing so, Djokovic made it 22 wins in a row and that alone should stand him in a very good stead going into this final against Khachanov. But there have been moments in this competition where he has looked slightly more vulnerable than at other times.
Like against Joao Sousa, he was pushed to 7-5 in the opening set. And then Marin Cilic managed to take a set off him in their quarter-final before that match against Federer. It was his fourth successive win against the Swiss but the first in these four where things went that close.
Now, Djokovic has a chance against a lower-ranked opponent, a chance to make it four tournament wins in a row, of which one was at the US Open and two others at the Masters.
This will be Khachanov’s first ever Masters final and it comes up against an opponent who has beaten him in their only previous meeting. The good news, or the one positive that Khachanov can take from it is that encounter came on grass, and that’s not his favourite surface anyway.
And speaking of positives, Khachanov will also feel safe in the knowledge that in the three previous ATP finals he’s played, he’s won all. He beat Albert Ramos in a gruelling three-setter at the Chengdu Open in 2016 but even more vitally he’s already won two titles this year – the Open 13 in France in February and the Kremlin Cup last month. Lucas Pouille and Adrian Mannarino were at the receiving end of his prowess.
Even if one went down to his earlier years when he played in the Challengers and Futures circuit, Khachanov has a 7-1 win-loss record, making it a career record of 10-1 in finals of tennis tournaments at the competitive level. It’s a record that will give him immense confidence going into a match in which you want to extract every bit of positive to help you remain in that frame of mind.
At the Paris Masters, Khachanov has seen off three top players after a couple of relatively easy encounters. In the third round, he overcame John Isner in a tough three-setter that saw the Russian stave off two match points in the final sets to make it through.
And then, over the next two matches, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem were sent packing – Khachanov dropped just eight games over those couple of encounters to make it to the final. It was the kind of treatment you expect a player at the top of his game dish out to a qualifier at the beginning of the tournament.
All of it said, Novak Djokovic will start off as a favourite – the bookmakers odds are one place to look at – but it’s in situations like these that new champions emerge and this is Khachanov’s chance to do just that.