At the end of 2018, Karen Khachanov stood at the top of men's tennis after beating Novak Djokovic in the final of the Paris Masters, cracking the top-10 next year and setting eyes on more big titles in the future. Despite that career-high ranking in 2019, Karen was never again on the level produced in Paris, losing too many matches in the season behind us and barely finishing in the top-20 after reaching the quarter-final in Paris and Indian Wells, followed by the semi-final in Montreal.
The Russian is yet to find his best tennis in 2020 as well, winning four matches at the ATP Cup before hitting the exit door early in the next four events, hoping for a better run in Dubai where he lives and spends the offseason.
Karen defeated Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round, coming from a break down twice in the first set and dominating in the second to enter the last 16 where he should be the favorite again in the quest for the first quarter-final in Dubai.
"It wasn't an easy opening match; the first round is always tough. I always try to get used to these conditions; I'm happy with the win and the fact I can play at least one more match and improve my game. There were some awkward moments, going down a break twice in the opener; it was essential to steal that set, as everything worked much better in the second.
In my next match, I would love to hit a little bit better and feel the ball more, finding the balance between aggressive shots and defense. The footwork was good, so as the serve, but for some reason, I couldn't find the way to finish points, missing some quite easy balls.
I love Dubai and I have decided to spend even more time here throughout 2020. I was here in December and January, hope that will help me this week. I like the city a lot, it's very touristic and you can do many things. You can go to the beach, even in January, and there are a lot of Russians around as well."