Khachanov's fifth trophy
Tennis players are slowly moving to Asia at the end of the year. This week, two ATP-250 tournaments ended in Chengdu and Zhuhai, which can be called the opening act before the competition in Beijing and the Masters in Shanghai. And, what is nice, in the finals in both of them were the Russians - Karen Khachanov and Roman Safiullin.
For the 15th racket of the world, this start, in fact, was the first full-fledged after the injury. He had a stress fracture. After the injury, the tennis player was already on the court at the US Open. However, in the first round he lost to American Michael Mmo.
In Zhuhai, the athlete felt more confident and on the way to the final in three matches he gave only one set. However, his rivals were not very formidable: Australian Alex Bolt, ranked 323rd in the world ranking, as well as Americans Mackenzie McDonald and Sebastian Korda, who have not yet made it into the top 30.
In the decisive meeting, Karen had to fight with Yoshihito Nishioka and compete for his first trophy in the last five years. The last time Khachanov won the title was in 2018 in Marseille. At the same time, it was the Russian who was the favorite of the confrontation, however, according to experts, much depended on his physical condition. And the Olympic champion Elena Vesnina noted that the Japanese is a very difficult opponent.
"Of course, reaching the final is a very important event for Khachanov. Recovery from such an injury that he had, as a rule, takes quite a long time. It is worth noting how quickly Karen managed to recover and find his game. All this should once again give him confidence before the fight with Nishioka, "Vesnina told RT.
Prior to that, the athletes met four times, and Karen celebrated the victory three times. The last time it was at the beginning of the year at the Australian Open, and then the Russian took two sets "to zero", and the third - in a tie-break.
The match in Zhuhai followed approximately the same scenario. Only this time the first batch turned out to be stubborn, and not the last. Karen started the meeting very confidently: he served powerfully and actively acted at the reception. Already in the fifth game, he earned a triple break point and took the lead on the second attempt.
However, then there was an unexpected decline in Khachanov's actions. Perhaps the imperfect functional state affected. There were mistakes on the serve: the Russian saved one game from a triple break point, and the next could not. Fortunately, at 5:4 in favor of the Japanese, Karen finally pulled himself together and made two beautiful attacks, which ended with blows right through. And then Nishioka did not leave a chance in the shortened game - 7:2.
After that, Yoshihito's game finally fell apart. He managed to take only one of his serves for the second set, and the rest were completely dominated by the Russian, twice bringing the matter to 40:0 on the reception. During the match, Khachanov made 37 winners against 14 for Nishioka, and both had seven unforced errors.
Thus, Karen has already won the fifth trophy in his career, which should certainly give him confidence before the end of the season. According to the head of the FTR Shamil Tarpishchev, now the tennis player needs to play well at the Masters in Paris, and try to get into the top 10. In the ATP rankings, the athlete after Zhuhai will slightly improve his position, rising from 15th to 14th place.
Safiullin's first final
If Khachanov fought for his fifth trophy in his career, then Safiullin reached the final of ATP tournaments for the first time, although the athlete is already 26 years old. He is the same age as Andrei Rublev, and at the junior level, the tennis player was in no way inferior to his more titled compatriot. Alas, the ensuing injuries did not allow the Russian to brightly break into the world tour, but this year he is gradually gaining momentum, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and finally reaching the decisive match in Chengdu.
Moreover, in previous meetings, Roman did not give a single game, although both Briton Daniel Evans and Italian Lorenzo Musetti are much higher in the ATP rankings, so they were considered favorites in confrontations.
At the same time, according to Vesnina, the results of tennis were positively influenced by working with coach Andrei Kuznetsov, with whom they began to cooperate in the winter.
"I believe that this year Safiullin made a real breakthrough in his career. He finally overcame the injuries that plagued him for a long time, and managed to add to the level of play. Here it is worth paying attention to what a delightful tandem he had with Andrey Kuznetsov, who is now his coach. Albeit at a more mature age, but Roman has found his tennis, "Vesnina told RT.
In the final, Safiullin got a very difficult opponent - Alexander Zverev, who knocked Aslan Karatsev out of the fight the day before. The last and only time the rivals met was in 2021 in the second round of Roland Garros. Then the German won in three sets. Moreover, he took a tie-break twice.
The duel in Chengdu turned out to be no less stubborn. At first, Roman did not have the first serve, so it was at his games, first of all, that the struggle took place. However, no matter how hard the opponent tried, he could not make a break, although there were enough opportunities. Zverev himself was also to blame for this. In an attempt to play dangerously at the reception, he often sent the ball into the net, after which he violently resented and swore at himself.
In many ways, the key in the first game was the 10th game on Safiullin's serve with a score of 5:4 in favor of the German. The opponent earned a triple setball, but none was able to convert, which added confidence to Roman, who then calmly won the tie-break - 7:2.
In the second game, Zverev tried to immediately seize the initiative, but the Russian survived and, moreover, made a break himself, leading 2:0. However, he could not keep the advantage: Alexander immediately took a point at the reception.
Then the game calmed down a little. Safiullin finally began to cope with his serve, taking three games "under zero". Although the first ball has so far passed through the time - 65%, and the speed of its flight remained not the highest. And at the reception, the tennis player was more active and was closer to victory than the German, who looked a little tired.
But Roman could not take advantage of a small advantage on the court. Everything was decided again in a tie-break. This time, luck was on the side of Zverev: at 5:5, he first had an ace, and then his opponent made a double fault.
Unfortunately, the third batch was the exact opposite of the previous one. After the success, Alexander woke up a second wind, he felt confident in himself and adjusted the serve (80% of hits with the first ball), and Safiullin, on the contrary, acted as if with the last of his strength. Perhaps it was the excitement, because it was no longer possible to make mistakes.
The fourth game was decisive, which the Russian quite easily gave 15:40. The German took a 3-1 lead and then calmly kept the minimum advantage, not allowing the opponent to do anything at the reception. He took two of his serves in the end "to zero".
However, even such a result for Safiullin is a great success. At the end of the tournament in Chengdu, he will rise to 41st place in the ATP rankings for the first time in his career. Previously, the best result of the athlete was 43rd place.