Heirs to the throne, Part II: Karen Khachanov

They are the future of tennis whose stars shone brightly in 2018. Here's everything you wanted to know

Karen Khachanov close up at Roland-Garros 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alix Ramsay

They are the future of tennis whose stars shone brightly in 2018. Here's everything you wanted to know about their tennis, hobbies and personalities.

Here are five things to know about Karen Khachanov.

Karen Kachanov portrait black and white 2018 Rolex Paris Masters©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
The end result

At the tender age of 22, Khachanov already has an impressive CV. He started 2018 ranked No.45 and ended it knocking on the door of the world’s top 10. A run of 11 win in 12 matches saw him mop up the titles in Moscow and Bercy to bring his tally of titles for the year to three and his career tally to four. Better still, he has never lost in a final which helped settle his nerves considerably before he took on the new No.1, Novak Djokovic, for the trophy in Bercy.

“I didn't play still so many finals but it's a good stat I would say: 4-0,” he said with his first Masters 1000 title firmly in his grasp (there are bound to be more). “Honestly, it was in back of my mind even when I was going today on the biggest final, like, let's say in Masters 1000 against Novak. Still I was thinking, Okay, he has, I don't know, 70, 80 titles. But I have three. But 3-0, you know? So maybe it was in the back of my mind.”

When he arrived in Paris for his last tournament of the season, he had notched up three wins against top 10 players in his three years on the tour – not a bad record for a young hopeful working his way up the rankings. But then, in the space of a week, he picked off another four – John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Djokovic – and dropped only one set in the process.

Don’t be fooled by first impressions

Khachanov is a gentle giant. Standing 6ft 6ins tall and with a serve that would shatter concrete, he speaks slowly and thoughtfully, answering questions with care and attention. And yet it was not always so. He first bumped into (quite literally) Veronika Shkliaeva 14 years ago – and it didn’t go well.

He was eight, they were at the airport and he was playing with a baggage trolley. And he ran the trolley into her. She was deeply unimpressed and told her mother that Karen was “an idiot”. Fast forward to the present day and Veronika is now his wife – they have been happily married for the past two years.

Born for greatness

Khachanov has never known anything but tennis. He started playing at the age of three when his parents put him in a kindergarten group to get him started. He has not looked back since.

A man of the world

Growing up in Moscow, Khachanov followed the path of so many Russian players and left home to further his career. In 2012 as a 15-year-old, he started working with Vedran Martic, the former coach of Goran Ivanisevic, in Croatia. In 2014, he moved on to Barcelona to work with Galo Blanco but at the start of this year, he joined forces again with Martic and the results have been impressive.

“I think I improved so much this year,” Khachanov said. “But it's kind of a team effort, teamwork. Basically we spend a lot of time on court. More maybe tactical. He explain me more mental. We have also good relationship between each other so that's why maybe it helps for good atmosphere on the team but also technical things as well.”

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

His favourite player – and one he now is pleased to call a friend – is Marat Safin and when he was a teenager, Khachanov would try and copy every stroke in Safin’s repertoire. But if he tried to copy his hero’s tennis, he did not follow his style on court. Much as he admires Safin’s charismatic presence, Khachanov is an altogether calmer soul who lists reading and chess as his hobbies.

When a journalist in Paris described him as “low key”, Khachanov was quick to correct the mistake.

“You are wrong,” he said simply. And then he paused. “By the way, you said ‘lucky’?”

No, the scribe, explained. Low key.

“Low key,” Khachanov repeated. “Then you’re right!”