Karen Khachanov beat four of the world’s top ten in winning his first masters series title, in Bercy, Paris. I have spoken about the Russian with a lot of affection, especially of late. His topspin (crosscourt) forehand pass was absolutely superb in Paris. His hustle and volleying also stood out though throughout the week. Khachanov beat Isner (saved a match point), Zverev, Thiem and Nole to take the title. He cruised past the new world number one 7/5 6/4. We know his forehand side is strong but in the final against Djokovic, the backhand earned him the break with a down-the-line passing shot, as it did at other times during the match. It all fell into place and held up under pressure. Khachanov was initially a breakdown in the opener.
As I have said (several times) in the past, I can’t get the level of performance he showed against Rafa in New York when I was there out of my head. I knew he was a top player but he has jumped ahead of schedule now for sure. The confidence that he should get from this will surely give him the belief to kick on again now all being well. The first aim will be to reach top ten, which should happen sooner rather than later, looking at what he has to defend bar Marseille (champion). I got a little bit on at 28’s too, though was late to the show, that was before the Isner match in the third round. Should have been more on the ball here, but I’m not going to complain. I just don’t fancy the favourites in Bercy these days. That goes for most non-Grand Slam weeks for me when I think about it.
Djokovic had overtaken Nadal as world number one during the week, Rafa withdrawing from the event with an abdominal injury. Nole beat Federer in the semi’s in a final set breaker, having also come from a set down and then a break down in the decider against Marin Cilic in the last eight. Cilic once again not quite getting over the line from a winning position. Federer, for his part, hadn’t looked great all week, though he was better against Nishikori. The serve wasn’t clicking, which was the same in Basel for large parts of the event.
The Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai was won by Ashleigh Barty, despite losing her opening match in the event to Aryna Sabalenka. Four groups of three are set out for the next eight in the rankings that missed out on the 2018 WTA Finals. Barty, having lost her opener and then beating Caroline Garcia, won the group on a one-game swing (for/against scenario). Her game difference was +1, whereas Sabalenka was 0 and Caroline Garcia was -1. Fine margins as they say. She beat Julia Goerges in the semi’s coming from a set down. Eventually frustrating her opponent with her court craft. She then ousted Qiang Wang for the title. Wang ran out of steam in the final having got through her group on sets won over Madison Keys. Kasatkina finished bottom of that group despite actually beating Wang. Getting confusing? Wang then beat Garbine Muguruza 6/2 6/0 in the semis after the Spaniard won her group with two victories! Barty’s 6/3 6/4 victory over Wang elevates the 22-year-old to a career-high of fifteen.
Finally, Luksika Kumkhum won the 125K event in Mumbai. She came from a set and 2/5 down in her match against Pranjala Yadlapalli in her opener. Wins over top-seed Saisai Zheng and Margarita Gasparyan in the semis followed, before seeing off Irina Khromacheva in Sunday’s final, having been bread-sticked in the first set. She started the year off well in Australia with a third-round showing, her best in a slam to date and she has now finished the season on a high. It moves her up twenty-three spots in the rankings to number eighty.
Andy Del Potro