Djokovic cruises past Karen Khachanov to reach Paris Masters quarters

Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic beats Kyrgios in final in July

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Novak Djokovic remained on course to defend his Paris Masters title with a dominant 6-4 6-1 straight-sets victory over Karen Khachanov. Djokovic sealed his 18th consecutive win as he breezed through his third round match against his overpowered Russian opponent.

 

The 35-year-old is in ominous form after recent wins in Tel Aviv and Astana, and is now the man to beat as he targets a seventh title in the French capital. Khachanov had proved Djokovic’s nemesis in 2018 when he beat the Serbian legend to win his sole ATP Masters 1000 trophy. 

But Djokovic had beaten Khachanov on six straight occasions after that shock result and there wasn’t to be another upset in a week where top seeds have fallen in Paris. Djokovic started on the front foot, manipulating his opponent around the court with brilliant returns to force an early break. 

He couldn’t press home his advantage, however, and missed two uncharacteristic forehands before a double fault allowed Khanachov to break back. The 26-year-old grew into the match with fine holds, but could not find another decisive opportunity to break Djokovic’s serve.

And Djokovic let out a huge cry of frustration when an unforced error denied three set points in the 10th game. But he was undeterred and produced some brutal groundstrokes to clinically wrap up the first set in 50 minutes with a second break. 

The difference in class became clear early in the second as Djokovic took advantage of Khachanov’s apparent reluctance to come to the net. Khachanov resisted early pressure to hold serve in his first service game but succumbed in his second as unforced errors crept into his play. 

Djokovic began to steam roll his opponent with a near flawless second set, finding his groove and punishing the world No.19 with an exhibition of serving. And despite a late lapse in concentration, he powered through to close out the encounter in under 90 minutes on his fourth match point.

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An extended break during the American hard-court swing due to his unvaccinated status has now put a fresh and rejuvenated Djokovic in good stead to end his year in style. 

The Serb, aiming for his 91st ATP singles crown, will face Lorenzo Musetti in the last eight after the Italian overcame world No.4 Casper Rudd 4-6 6-4 6-4 earlier on Thursday. And his latest win brought a sense of familiarity back to the tournament after surprise early exits for elite stars Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Taylor Fritz.

Djokovic’s great rival Nadal had stepped out on court for the first time since his US Open exit two months ago and was defeated 4-6 7-6(4) 6-1 by Tommy Paul in the biggest win of the young American’s career. Meanwhile, world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz stormed through against Gregor Dimitrov to set up a tasty quarter-final clash against Holger Rune. 

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