Karen Khachanov caused one of the shocks of the tennis year by overpowering Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-4 in the Paris Masters final on Sunday to end the Serbian’s remarkable spell of dominance in the men’s game.
The 22-year-old Russian has for some time been seen as one of the rising young talents of the sport but few could have envisaged his demolition of the Serbian superstar, who was on a three-month, 22-match winning streak.
Djokovic was expected to celebrate his return to world number one on Monday with a record-extending fifth Paris title but he went down in one hour 37 minutes amid a hail of 31 crushing winners from the Muscovite’s racket.
“To finish my season like this is a dream,” Khachanov told the crowd in the Bercy arena, explaining that Djokovic had always been an inspiration to him.
He even took a leaf out of the Serb’s book of celebrations by bending down to kiss the Centre Court. “Maybe I’m not crying, but still I’m really happy,” he told reporters later.
Khachanov, a strapping 1.98-metre huge hitter with surprisingly fleet movement around the court for such a big man, took advantage of Djokovic being a little under the weather after a week struggling with flu-like symptoms.
Yet even though the Serb admitted he had not recovered physically after his epic three-hour win over Roger Federer in Saturday’s semi-final, he had nothing but praise for the outstanding quality of Khachanov’s attacking game.
“All credit to Karen, he did a great job today. He deserves the trophy,” Djokovic told the crowd.