Karen Khachanov continues his bid for a first ATP title of the season when he takes on Hungarian qualifier Marton Fucsovics in the second round of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna on Wednesday night.
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World No. 9 Karen Khachanov and Hungarian qualifier Marton Fucsovics clash for the first time on the ATP World Tour when they battle it out for a quarter-final spot in Vienna on Wednesday.
Competing in Vienna for the fourth time in his career, Khachanov – who has been out of form for basically the entire season – scored a confidence-boosting victory in his opening round, taking out Winston-Salem champion Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets. Khachanov almost let the match slip through his fingers in the second set when he missed out on a match point at 5-3 on Hurkacz’s serve and failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the following game, but the Russian regrouped for the tiebreak, racing out to a 4-0 lead and closing out the contest by a 6-4 7-6(3) scoreline.
It’s been an extremely disappointing year for Khachanov, who went 46-22 last year and ended 2018 in blistering fashion, beating four top 10 players – including Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic – to win his maiden Masters 1000 title in Paris, while he also won the 250 event in Moscow, with those results helping him break into the top 10.
However, Khachanov is only 28-24 for 2019, and with his Paris Masters champion points set to drop off shortly, the Russian will be battling to stay inside the top 20, let alone the top 10. Illness played a part at the start of the season, but Khachanov isn’t anywhere near the level he ended 2018, with his only semi-finals coming at the Canada Masters, where he beat Zverev again, and the China Open in Beijing, while he also made the quarter-finals of Roland Garros. The 23-year-old has lost his opening match at 12 tournaments this season, including at the U.S. Open, where he went down in five sets to World No. 216 Vasek Pospisil, while his Moscow title defence ended rather meekly last week in the quarter-finals against Andreas Seppi.
In desperate need of a big week in Vienna in order to ease some of the pressure of defending his Paris Masters points, can Khachanov make his second quarter-final at the ATP 500 tournament?
He’ll have to make it past Marton Fucsovics to do so. The Hungarian, who has dropped to No. 67 from a career-high ranking of No. 31 earlier this season, was forced to come through qualifying this week in Vienna, beating Egor Gerasimov and Stefano Travaglia to make the main draw before scoring a straight sets victory over Lorenzo Sonego to reach the second round and earn a shot at second seed Khachanov.
A former junior World No. 1 and Wimbledon champion, it took a little longer than expected for Fucsovics to make his top 100 debut, but he did just that in 2017 at 25 years of age, and he continued to break new ground in 2018 as he won his maiden ATP title in Geneva and made the fourth round of the Australian Open. Fucsovics had a solid start to 2019 as he finished runner-up in Sofia and made back-to-back 500-level quarter-finals in Rotterdam and Dubai, but he’s tailed off as the year has dragged on, coming into Vienna with a 21-25 record, losing nine of his last 11 matches and seeing his ranking drop to as low as No. 70 a couple of weeks ago.
Fucsovics will be determined to put together a big end to 2019 in order to make up for his last few months – and he has a decent chance to earn a first top 10 victory (he’s currently 0-11 against the game’s elite). Khachanov is still some way off his best tennis and almost let Hurkacz back into the match in the first round. Fucsovics has the firepower to make a match out of this, but the Hungarian hasn’t been operating at his best level for a while now. Khachanov should edge this, but the Russian can’t afford another concentration lapse.