Name: Karen Khachanov
Similar playing style to: Milos Raonic
Is Khachanov the most exciting youngster on the circuit? In comparison to Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, no he isn’t, but he’s just as effective. He trains in Barcelona with Raonic’s former coach, the smart and focused Galo Blanco. With that background, it’s hardly a surprise to learn his favourite surfaces are clay and hard court. His heavy groundstrokes, the booming forehand in particular, suit the quick surfaces.
Khachanov won his first ATP title last October, winning The Chengdu Open. On the way to the final, he eliminated veteran pros Joao Sousa, Feliciano Lopez and Viktor Troicki. The manner in which he won the final was mightily impressive, coming from a set down to beat 27th-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas. A lot of young players have all the quality required to be a top player, but lack the killer instinct and guile to win, not Khachanov though. He battled back very well in that final, and closed the match out in style.
The Russian proved his mental toughness in The US Open vs Nishikori. After winning the second set, he didn’t capitulate by any means, he was simply outclassed by a more complete and experienced player. He made Nishikori fight for his win, and I liked that, he BELIEVED he could win. Yes, he came up short as expected, but he still impressed with his battling mentality.
The most telling aspect of his personal bio, was him choosing Safin and Juan Martin Del Potro when asked to name his role models. Both are big guys, lumber around the court and are brutal when giving short balls to hit at. That’s a pretty accurate description of how Khachanov goes about his business too. We know already he can strike winners with ease, serve solid, but does he have the mobility and speed to move around the court? I assume it’s something we’ll find out in the coming years.
I would predict Zverev and Kyrgios to be more successful in years to come, purely down to them being well-rounded and complete players. However, on his day, Khachanov could blow anyone off the court with his serve and power. If he can improve his mobility, return of serve and rally play, he is well capable of challenging at the very top.