Novak Djokovic, playing with his usual uncanny precision, won his seventh consecutive match Friday night, defeating Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-3 at the Astana Open.
The Serbian star advanced to his sixth semi-final of the season, where he will play No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev for the first time this year. Should Djokovic back up last week’s Tel Aviv championship run with a second consecutive title (and 90th overall), he will qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
Djokovic served exceptionally well against Khachanov and, at the same time, one of history’s greatest returners converted three of five break point opportunities against the World No. 18’s formidable serve.
“I didn’t play as well from the baseline as I did in the first two matches, but still it was enough,” said Djokovic after the match. “I managed to produce some good tennis when it was the most needed in both sets.”
The two matches Djokovic played for Team Europe at the Laver Cup in late September were his first for three months following his triumph at Wimbledon in July. Yet the 35-year-old seems to be returning to familiar form on indoor hard courts.
Djokovic broke the unseeded Khachanov in his first service game and led 3-0, before Khachanov found an equilibrium and won the next three games. Serving to stay in the match at 4-5, a backhand error gave Djokovic set point. He converted it with a stunning backhand volley into the open court.
After failing to convert a break point against Khachanov in the second game of the second set, Djokovic managed it in the fourth. A forehand winner that may have clipped the line gave him a 3-1 lead. Djokovic’s steadiness in the long points ultimately proved decisive, and he wrapped his 88-minute victory with an emphatic ace to secure a semi-final berth on tournament debut.
“I always expect highs from myself,” said Djokovic said. “Hopefully I can elevate still the level of my game for tomorrow because it’s going to be needed, obviously, whoever I play against.”
Khachanov, who has now lost 20 straight matches to Top 10 opponents – nine in 2022 – has now fallen in seven of eight matches to Djokovic across his career.
Did You Know?
By winning Wimbledon in July, Djokovic is guaranteed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals as a current-year Grand Slam champion who finishes within the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin should he win the Astana Open. Victory at the ATP 500 would give Djokovic enough points to guarantee that he will be in the Top 20 of the Race on the Monday after the Rolex Paris Masters.