Novak Djokovic and Karen Khachanov have made a winning start in Dubai, beating Malek Jaziri and Mikhail Kukushkin on an opening day to advance into the last 16. Khachanov had to work hard in the opening set against Mikhail Kukushkin, overcoming a break deficit twice and dominating in set number two to grab an important win after a slow run following the semi-final appearance with Russia at the ATP Cup.
Karen lives in Dubai, spending the offseason there and planning to stay more in this beautiful city during the 2020 season, enjoying with his family and on the practice court. Djokovic and Khachanov could meet in the quarter-final if they both pass the second obstacle, playing three times before in 2018 and 2019.
Two years ago, Djokovic defeated the young Russian at Wimbledon before Karen responded at the end of the season in Paris, beating the Serb in the final to lift the first and so far the only Masters 1000 crown. Khachanov couldn't produce similar tennis in 2019, winning 30 matches with almost as many losses and still waiting to reach the first final after that brilliant Parisian run.
Speaking about Karen, Djokovic praised his abilities and powerful game that could propel him into the top-5 one day, despite a fearsome competition out there. "Karen Khachanov is a physically very powerful player. He hits the ball hard, especially from the forehand wing, with a flat backhand and big serve.
With this kind of game, I think he's always a contender to be top-10 or top-15 in the world. He's been playing on a higher level in the last, I would say, four or five months than maybe during the early months of the previous season, having some ups and downs.
I remember he was testing racquets after he won against me in the finals of Paris Bercy; that was his best finish of the year and the best season. Karen is still young and he's figuring out how to be the best version of himself throughout the entire year; it's a big task.
It is much more difficult nowadays to get to top-10 or top-5 and I'm sure that's his goal. He has the talent and potential to achieve that."