Novak Djokovic had beaten Karen Khachanov at Wimbledon earlier this year, and when Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead in the opening set, journalists were looking at their watches in anticipation of a late lunch or early dinner in Paris.
But what followed was an early coming-out party as the 22-year-old Russian toppled the soon-to-be No. 1 (on Monday) Djokovic 7-5, 6-4 for his first Masters Series victory at the Rolex Paris Masters.
“It means the world to me,” said Khachanov, who beat four consecutive Top 10 players in Paris. “I couldn’t be happier to finish the season like this.”
Khachanov stopped Djokovic from winning a record 33rd Masters-level title while improving to a perfect 4-0 in career finals, three this year.
Down 1-3 in the first, Khachanov flicked a switch and simply overpowered Djokovic from that point on, winning 10 straight points during one stretch. At 5-5 the Russian broke again before serving out the set. He broke Djokovic for a 2-1 lead in the second, and did not waiver when he had the opportunity to serve out the match at 5-4.
“One thing that with Novak you cannot just go to the net because he has unbelievable passing shots,” Khachanov said. “You have to really prepare your coming through. You have to really sort out the right shots when you can step in and go to the net. So of course, the best scenario if I’m hitting left-right and I’m coming to the net with a shorter ball, sometimes it was not possible, but sometimes I did it really well. But in general, my game is aggressive and I have to try to step in more and to play the way I played, actually.”
He joined John Isner (Miami) and Juan Martin del Potro (Indian Wells) as first-time Masters winners in 2018.
Djokovic was nothing but complimentary following the final.
“I want to talk about how well he played all week,” said the Serb. “He absolutely deserved to win the match today. So all the credit to him. He deserves it. He’s a young player up and coming. But already an established player, a top player. And he showed great quality today and he showed why we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.
“I’m satisfied of course and I’m going to be No. 1 tomorrow officially. What more can I ask for? I mean, I won 20-plus matches in a row and had a most amazing last five months of the year.”
Djokovic will next head to the year-ending ATP Finals in London.
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