Rising Russian star Karen Khachanov admitted he didn't come up big when needed most during his BNP Paribas Open quarter-final clash against No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard claimed a tight straight-set win over the 12th-seeded Russian 7-6 (2) 7-6 (2) to reach the Indian Wells Masters semi-final.
Khachanov broke Nadal in the opening game of the match but failed to hold on to his serve as the Spaniard broke back in the sixth game. Nadal failed to convert any of his four set points in the 10th game but converted his fifth in the tie-break.
The Spaniard broke Khachanov in the fifth game of the second set but the Russian broke back immediately in the following game. Khachanov paid the price for not converting a set point on Nadal's serve in the 10th game as the Spaniard cruised past the second-set tie-break.
"Yeah, how. I think just today in the important moments, in the key moments, I played not right or maybe not good, and he played better than me in these situations. So that's why actually the score went on his side 7-6, 7-6," Khachanov said post-match.
"I think it was more about these important points, key points that I didn't convert or I didn't take it from my side." Nadal now leads the head-to-head against Khachanov 6-0. When asked what does make Nadal such a difficult opponent, Khachanov was full of praise for the Spaniard's game.
"Honestly, I think because he has real answers on all possible shots, in my opinion. You know, he's unbelievable in defense," Khachanov explained. "Then, you know, in some moments when you want to try maybe just to play safer, then he suddenly steps in and, you know, he counterattacks.
He steps in and then he starts moving you, and then you are again in trouble. "Basically I think he has kind of -- and he improved his game in all surfaces. That's why he's actually winning in all the Grand Slams and all Masters 1000s, I think because he has answers on all kinds of shots.
And you need to really select right and not miss opportunities when you have them." Khachanov will now take a few days off and prepare for the upcoming Miami Open. "Yeah, of course. Like I said, of course, I'm disappointed that I lost again to him.
I really wanted to beat him," Khachanov admitted. "But on the other side, I'm taking it as a positive because, after last few tournaments, I'm playing much better, much better level in this match. "And I think it should bump me up even for the next tournaments and to keep improving and try to beat him next time. I mean, that's the only thing we can do."