SOIREE
du Tuesday 29 Octobre 2019 at 19h00 au Tuesday 29 Octobre 2019 at 20h30
ROLEX PARIS MASTERS From October 31th to November 8th, 2020
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Karen Khachanov has the hardest job in tennis in the Rolex Paris Masters final - beating Novak Djokovic, the very best there is

If Roger, near his sublime best can’t, then nobody can…..

That seemed to be the inevitable conclusion after Roger Federer threw everything but his royal kitchen sink at Novak Djokovic in a wondrous semi-final of the Rolex Paris Masters on Saturday - and still came up agonisingly short.

Yet sitting there, watching Fed and Nole on TV with his feet up and loving every minute of the idea that he was going to be taking on one of these two “legends”, as he respectfully called them, Karen Khachanov couldn’t have been happier. Bring them on, he was saying to himself.

Like all of us, Karen probably knew it was bound to be Novak who prevailed. For Djokovic is the ever-shifting yet somehow immovable, unbreachable wall, the rubber man with the iron will who will always find a way to make sure that tennis ball comes pounding back to you. Or past you.


He is damned if he will let anyone defeat him. This week, he has been feeling pretty rotten, bunged up with a flu-type ailment, so that every match has felt like a chore. He’s bawled at his team at courtside and dismantled two rackets. “Struggling” was the word he used.

Yet from watching this most incredible and elastic of athletes working yet more wonders, you could simply not credit that he’s been under par.

For once again, he has forged his way through to the final of a Masters event. And it has all felt quite inevitable. He’s now gone 22 matches without losing, stretching back nearly three months. He’s won his last three tournaments and only lost two of his last 36 sets.

And still, young Khachanov says what any athlete bubbling with  self-belief and at the top of his or her game should say. “Convinced,” nods this impressive Muscovite, when asked whether bringing down the ‘Serbinator’ in this mood really is possible.

And why shouldn’t he be convinced? On Thursday, Khachanov might have needed a tin helmet as John Isner kept firing down those monster serves at him but he just fired them back with interest. On Friday, he bullied big Alexander Zverev to distraction. On Saturday, it was as if he could almost have been kicking sand in Dominic Thiem’s face. He’s been the player of the week, no question.


Khachanov already had the weapons and the power. That forehand had always been a bit of a monster. And for a such a big guy at 6ft 6in, he could move with surprising facility and fleetness. Yet, all of a sudden, he has something more; the self-belief of beating three top-10 players in a row. Now, everything feels possible to him.

“I had some really tough and close matches against top guys and I was really believing ‘it has to turn around at one point.’ So that's basically what’s happened,” he explains.

Djokovic has recognised this new Khachanov. “Absolutely not to be under-estimated,” he said. “He’s been playing some phenomenal tennis this week, winning all but one of his matches in straight sets and striking the ball beautifully. So I’ve got to try to use my experience, as he’s in his first Masters final.”


The Serbian, of course, has something more he can utilise. He now comes armed with an aura. Just as he in 2015 and 2011, when players simply didn’t believe it was possible to bulldoze through his defences or his rapier counter-thrusts. It must be so easy for players to be left completely demoralised by such mastery.

The only time Khachanov tried, back at Wimbledon this summer, he was filleted in straight sets by an impatient Djokovic, who, miffed at having been given a late start time, was determined to finish off the Russian before bad light stopped play. He did - and it was merciless.

Khachanov, who could move to the verge of a top-10 place by winning today, has moved on a long way since then, though. “I think this is the best that I have seen him play ever, match to match,” acknowledged Djokovic. “So, I'm sure he's going to be very motivated to win the title. He has nothing to lose.”

Maybe.… but can a powerhouse with nothing to lose hope to smash through a phenomenon who has forgotten how to lose?

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Groupe 2