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.
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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.