Karen Khachanov sprung one of the biggest upsets of the year on Sunday, stunning World No. 2 and four-time champion Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4 for the Rolex Paris Masters title.
Hitting big and refusing to allow Djokovic to find his rhythm, Khachanov claimed his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in dramatic fashion on the indoor hard courts of Paris-Bercy. The 22-year-old Russian announced himself to the tennis world with the biggest victory of his young career. He reeled off four straight Top 10 wins (d. Isner, Zverev, Thiem and Djokovic), finishing his 2018 campaign at a career-high No. 11 in the ATP Rankings.
"It means the world to me," Khachanov said after the match. "I couldn't be happier to finish the season like this."
Coming into the match, all attention was on Djokovic's bid for a record-tying 33rd Masters 1000 title and 23rd straight match win, but it was Khachanov who extended his own run of 11 wins in 12 matches. He improves to 4-0 in ATP World Tour title matches, having also lifted trophies in Marseille and his home capital of Moscow this year.
Djokovic burst out of the gates with a quick break for 3-1. The Serbian applied immediate pressure on Khachanov's serve, as the 22-year-old had no answer for his opponent's baseline blows. But the change in momentum was swift and impressive. Khachanov quickly snatched the break back, reeling off 10 straight points and finding great depth off his forehand side to put Djokovic on his heels.
The Russian's surge continued in the latter stages of the set. He gave Djokovic a taste of his own medicine, turning defense into offense in a flash at 5-5 30/40 to grab another break and close out the opener in efficient fashion. He sealed the set with his third ace after 58 minutes.
Khachanov refused to relinquish his stranglehold as the second set got underway, racing to a set and a break lead. Djokovic saved a pair of break chances at 1-1 15/40, but his 22-year-old opponent struck a running forehand winner to earn at third opportunity, which he would not squander.
He would hold his nerve when serving out the match, sealing a 7-5, 6-4 win in one hour and 39 minutes.
"One thing that with Novak you cannot just go to the net because he has unbelievable passing shots," Khachanov added. "You have to really prepare your coming through. You have to really sort out the right shots when you can step in and go to the net.
"So of course, the best scenario if I'm hitting left-right and I'm coming to the net with a shorter ball, sometimes it was not possible, but sometimes I did it really well. But in general, my game is aggressive and I have to try to step in more and to play the way I played, actually."
With the win, Khachanov becomes the first Russian to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title since Nikolay Davydenko in Shanghai in 2009. Along with 22-year-old Daniil Medvedev, also a three-time winner this year, and Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Andrey Rublev, the European nation is trending skyward as 2018 comes to a close.
In addition, No. 18 Khachanov is the lowest-ranked player to claim a Masters 1000 trophy since No. 26 Ivan Ljubicic in Indian Wells in 2010. While Djokovic, Federer and Nadal continue to set the bar, this also marks the second straight year with three first-time Masters 1000 champions.
Djokovic will next head to the Nitto ATP Finals, where he enters as World No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. He was appearing in his 47th Masters 1000 final and 104th title match at the tour-level.
"I want to talk about how well he played all week," said Djokovic. "He absolutely deserved to win the match today. So all the credit to him. He deserves it. He's a young player up and coming. But already an established player, a top player. And he showed great quality today and he showed why we're going to see a lot of him in the future.
"I'm satisfied of course and I'm going to be No. 1 tomorrow officially. What more can I ask for? I mean, I won 20-plus matches in a row and had a most amazing last five months of the year."
Revenge was sweet for Khachanov, who fell in straight sets in their lone previous FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter at Wimbledon earlier this year.（From ATP）