Khachanov accounted for five as he took on German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber on Wednesday, dropping the first set to Kohlschreiber and then coming back from 3-5 down in the final set, saving three match points in the process. He then had to fend off two more match points in the ensuing tie-break before converting his first when Kohlschreiber double-faulted for the third time in the match to hand the Russian a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) victory.
‘I can’t remember the last time I had a comeback like that,’ Khachanov said afterwards. ‘I had to fight and try to find my game. I am really happy that finally I can go through here in my hometown of Moscow.’
Khachanov only dropped one set on his way to the Kremlin Cup title in 2018 – that one to Daniil Medvedev, who like him would break into the top 10 in 2019 – and would of course go on to win his maiden Masters 1000 Series title in Paris, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final. Although as aforementioned he would go on to break into the top 10 in 2019, currently ranking world no. 8, the season as a whole has not contained similar heights (and time is very much running out for him to emulate them). Down in 16th place in the Race to London, Khachanov has yet to claim a title or even reach a final this year, although he has racked up some solid achievements: A first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, quarterfinal showings at Indian Wells and Halle and, more recently, an excellent semifinal run at the Canada Masters. Khachanov will have been disappointed to follow that with a first-round exit from the US Open at the hands of Vasek Pospisil – perhaps the biggest disappointment of his season – but he welcomed his first child shortly afterwards and on returning to action made the semifinals in Beijing.
With 1,250 of his 2,290 points to defend in Moscow and Paris, Khachanov looks set for a drop in the rankings unless he can somehow claim both titles again, but every match he can win in Moscow will cushion the blow and he battled superbly against Kohlschreiber, who has always been a difficult opponent for him, even if the German did slightly let him back into the match towards the end.
Seppi’s turn for match-point-saving heroics came in the first round when he fended off two before beating Cristian Garin 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), and he went on to beat Roberto Carballes Baena 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 to book his place in the quarterfinals of an ATP Tour event for the fourth time this year.
A top-20 player in 2013, the 35-year-old Seppi currently ranks world no. 72 and it feels like his days of setting the world on fire, as he did most notably when he defeated Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open in 2015, are behind him. Seppi won the third ATP Tour title of his career in Moscow itself in 2012, and has reached three subsequent finals – most recently in January, when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas on the way to the final in Sydney before losing to Alex de Minaur – but not in Moscow, although he has a pretty solid record at the Kremlin Cup, making the quarterfinals in 2014 and 2017 and the semifinals in 2013 and 2018, when he took out two seeds before losing to Adrian Mannarino.
It’s been rather a quiet year for Seppi since his runner-up finish in Sydney, but he’s had some good results in recent weeks, winning the Cary Challenger in early September and going on to make the quarterfinals at the ATP 250 in Zhuhai, where he defeated Nick Kyrgios before losing to Roberto Bautista Agut.
Khachanov and Seppi have played once before, a 6-4, 6-4 victory for the Russian on indoor hard courts in Vienna, and although it took place three years ago it feels like a decent predictor of Friday’s clash – Khachanov’s greater explosiveness and weight of shot likely to overwhelm the Italian’s more all-round game, if the defending champion plays relatively well. After the drama of the Kohlschreiber clash, there is an opportunity for Khachanov to put his foot down and roar into the semifinals in Moscow.
Khachanov vs Seppi Kremlin Cup tennis is live from Moscow on Friday at 4.30pm local/2.30pm BST
Khachanov vs Seppi tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Khachanov and Seppi have saved seven match points between them in Moscow
Defending champion Karen Khachanov faces 2012 Kremlin Cup champion Andreas Seppi for a place in the Moscow semifinals. *Geo-restrictions apply….
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