Khachanov switched on and battle ready

The 27-year-old is in the hunt for a third successive Grand Slam semi-final spot

Karen Khachanov, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It’s a playground game, but it's becoming the trend for the coin toss.

'Rock, paper, scissors' is a game of fine margins and plenty of permutations, just like Grand Slam tennis.

On Saturday, Karen Khachanov practised with Novak Djokovic as his last preparation for Roland-Garros. Who won the bragging rights?

"I won rock, paper, scissors," Khachanov told "But he won the set 6-3, 1-1, before we had to stop." 

It might not affect the No.11 seed's title chances further down the track in Paris, but Khachanov has first-hand experience of how hard it's going to be to deny the Serbian a men's record-extending 23rd Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic, Karen Khachanov, Roland-Garros 2023, Yannick Noah Day© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Title challengers galore

The men's draw has thrown up a star-studded list of contenders from Khachanov's perspective.

"It's not very open just because Rafa [Nadal] isn't here," the 27-year-old said.

"There's still Djokovic, Alcaraz, Daniil, Andrey, Rune, Stefanos, me too, many top guys.

"You cannot underestimate Novak, take him out of the equation on any surface, any condition."

Always a chance

On Sunday, Khachanov battled the "crowd, my opponent, myself" on a rowdy Court Suzanne-Lenglen to reel in Frenchman Constant Lestienne 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

That was the former top-10 player's third Grand Slam win from a two-set deficit after great escapes against Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon 2018 and Jannik Sinner at US Open 2020.

"There are no secrets. You must never give up. You need to input the belief, no matter the score, two sets down, or even a break down in the third, you can do it," insisted Khachanov, who is drawn to face Radu Albot in the second round.


Karen Khachanov, Constant Lestienne, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Julien Crosnier / FFT

"I love the best of five sets. You have more space, you can still pull it back.

"You have to expect the toughest of battles. If it's easier then you take it. Mentally and physically you have to be prepared for five sets and then you always have a chance.

"Also in Slams, two sets up, it can be difficult to close out too. If you win 3-0, that's like a cake with the cherry on top."

Comfortable on court

Khachanov's consistency gets overshadowed. The Dubai resident posted back-to-back Grand Slam semi-finals at the US Open and Australian Open prior to flying to Paris. 

The No.11 seed hasn't reached the final four yet in the French capital, chalking up a quarter-final in 2019 amidst a quartet of fourth-round runs. 18 wins at Roland-Garros represents his highest tally at a major. Khachanov is clearly comfortable in Paris.

Karen Khachanov, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Julien Crosnier/FFT

"Normally the conditions suit me really well," he said.

"I love playing on clay in general. Every year I've been bringing my best form on clay here because we don’t have a long clay season and you need a few tournaments in a row to adjust.

"This year I had the quick transition from Miami hard courts [semi-finals] and I've got some matches under my belt. I feel like I come here in the peak of my form in previous years and I hope to do the same this year."

Karen Khachanov, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Giving it all

Six top-100 victories across four build-up tournaments indicate a rich vein of form once again for Khachanov. In Madrid he also won the doubles title alongside close friend Rublev.

Khachanov feels he has the tools to take a chance in Paris, to go for broke for another Grand Slam milestone.

"It's the last tournament on clay, it’s a Grand Slam, so your mind switches and you understand this is one of the biggest tournaments out there," added the world No.11.

"So the motivation is as strong as possible. I expect myself to be tough, to fight and hopefully I can do better this year."