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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Andrey Rublev

Karen Khachanov topped Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 joining doubles partner Andrey Rublev in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament round of 16.

Photo credit: ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Facebook

An absent crowd from the Rotterdam Ahoy creates a cozy solitude on court.

In a clash of heavy hitters, Karen Khachanov pierced the silence with crackling strikes subduing Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament round of 16.

More: Worn Down By Critics, Murray Feels Pressure to Perform

World No. 21 Khachanov played pivotal points with more care—he saved all three break points he faced—controlled his sometime unruly forehand in the face of the Swiss' ballistic shots and served with authority down the stretch winning 16 of the last 19 points played on his serve including a love hold to seal a 91-minute win.

Khachanov leveled his head-to-head series with Wawrinka at 2-2 setting up a first meeting with Cameron Norrie for a quarterfinal spot. The British qualifier crushed reeling Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0, 6-3 in his opener.

There was a time when Khachanov led the Russian revolution as the first of a trio of friends, including Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, to crack the Top 10 back in 2019.

Times have changed. Both two-time major finalist Medvedev, who posted a 20-match winning streak before bowing to Novak Djokovic in last month's Australian Open final, and Rublev, who led the Tour with five titles in 2020, have rocketed past Khachanov in the rankings.

Earlier, Rublev saved four of five break points stopping American qualifier Marcos Giron 7-6(1), 6-3. The fourth-seeded Rublev set up a round of 16 match of force vs. finesse as he will face British wild card Andy Murray next.

Russians Rublev and Khachanov joined forces in doubles defeating Wawrinka and Dusan Lajovic in their opener. Seeing the Swiss' serve in doubles may well have aided Khachanov, who earned a break point in the opening game today.

If you were expecting a tiebreaker test in this fourth meeting between the pair, you're not alone. Four of the prior seven sets they played were decided in breakers—with Wawrinka winning all four.

The bearded Khachanov turned up pressure in the third game attacking a second serve to force a floating forehand and break the Swiss for 2-1.

The Russian's elaborate takeback on his extreme western grip forehand can sometimes cause timing issues. Moving to his left, Khachanov cranked a diagonal forehand approach drawing an errant pass to navigate a tough hold for 4-2.

Tennis Express

Wawrinka showed his shot-making hammering a bounce smash from the baseline then freezing his opponent with a slashing backhand winner to end the seventh game. 

The sturdy Swiss threatened to 30-all when Khachanov served for the set, but the former Paris Masters champion quieted the uprising ripping a series of inside-out forehands to cap the opening set on the strength of a single service break .

Wawrinka was hitting even heavier in the early stages of the second set, but betrayed his cause slapping a routine smash into the net and sailing a forehand on break point. Khachanov used those lapses to squeeze out a tough opening hold.

The former Olympic gold-medal doubles champion began imposing the net game and targeting the Russian's forehand wing in the second set. Wawrinka unloaded a jarring body serve to work through a deuce hold for 5-4. By then, he'd won eight of 10 trips to net in the set.

The 6'6" Khachanov cranked a forehand down the line, followed it forward and dug out a terrific low backhand volley near his shoelaces for love-30. When Wawrinka ended a crackling rally sailing a forehand, Khachanov had triple break points in the 11th game.

Defending with vigor, the lanky Khachanov drew a forehand error showing the spectrum of both attack and defense forging the lone break of the second set for 6-5.

A confident Khachanov served it out at love rattling Wawrinka's black Yonex racquet with one final backhand blast to close it in one hour, 31 minutes.

The 2018 Paris Masters champion Khachanov has often done his most damaging work indoors and is capable of a deep run this week.


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