Dubai Duty Free Tennis 2020: Karen Khachanov interview

The tennis star talks about this year’s tournament and playing Roger Federer

Dubai Duty Free Tennis 2020: Karen Khachanov interview

Rising Russian star Karen Khachanov has made our great city his home and forms part of a highly impressive line-up of the world’s top tennis talent heading here for the 28th edition of this much-loved tournament.

Once again being held at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Garhoud (from February 17-29) this year’s championships also mark the 20th anniversary of the WTA Tour. Almost two-thirds of the highest ranked players in the women’s game are set to do battle, with defending champion Belinda Bencic aiming for back-to-back triumphs.

In the men’s draw, though, most of the intrigue centres on whether Roger Federer can claim an incredible ninth title here, with the likes of his old adversary Novak Djokovic also in the mix. But having knocked up with the Swiss superstar over the off-season, former world No.8 Karen Khachanov is better placed than many to judge how he could potentially be toppled. Here, he talks to us about his move to the UAE, his part in the recent revival of Russian men’s tennis, becoming a dad and how much a DDF crown would mean to him...

What made you want to move to Dubai, what do you love about this city and how would you say living here is helping your tennis career?
I moved to live in Dubai and got residency four years ago. I had been here so many times for a holiday with my family and I just love the city. It’s a great place to practise, too, especially in the winter and there are a lot of different clubs, courts and gyms. For my family, too, it’s great to have them here by the beach. I love spending time here.

With yourself, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev all in the ATP top 20 (as we went to press), do you think this is potentially a golden age for Russian men’s tennis?
Yes, I think it is. It’s been a while since Russia’s former legends like Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were at the top of the game. People have maybe been waiting for more Russian players to rise up in the rankings. I hope that as a group, myself included, we can all continue to improve and make this another golden generation.

What’s your relationship like with Daniil? You have played in Davis Cup together but is there rivalry?
We are some of the best friends outside the court. But, of course, when we face each other we are opponents, we are rivals. That is a normal part of our sport. We grew up together, practised together and have played a lot of tournaments together since we were ten years old. I think our rivalry helped us both to improve, to push each other and motivate us to keep working hard.

You spent some of the off-season training with Roger Federer. What was that like?
Roger is a role model, he’s like an artist on the court. Everything he does is so smooth and fluid. He is also a really nice person. Whenever I have questions, either about tennis or my personal life, we have good discussions and he has always been really nice to me. Our discussions are always very open.

There’s never been a Russian winner of the men’s singles at the DDF Tennis Championships. Could this be your year?
That’s true! I think Marat Safin was in the final once, Mikhail Youzhny, too. Nikolay Davydenko also used to play well in Dubai. There’s so much history and although it’s a little early to say, I would of course love to win the title. I will do everything I can to put myself in a good position to play well.

How great would it be to win this title, especially in your adopted home town?
I would love to win, especially in the place that has become home. It is always great to play in front of the crowd in Dubai and I love when people come to watch and support us. I hope it will be a big week for me.

Will Roger still be the one to beat as he goes for a ninth title?
Roger is always the one to beat. When he is in the draw he is always dangerous. First of all let’s see how the draw works out and whether we get the chance to play each other. I would have to win a couple of matches to meet with him, but let’s see how it goes. That would be a special experience if it could happen.

You became a dad for the first time last year – congrats! How has that affected your tennis?
Becoming a dad is one of the best things that has happened in my life and I think it has only affected my tennis in a positive way. Along with my wife, I have one more supporter with me! It makes me only more eager to win.
From Dhs55. February 17-19. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com (04 417 2415).

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