Novak Djokovic survived his toughest match of the week at the Astana Open as he got past Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals. The world No 7 is playing just his second tournament in three months and won his 14th-successive match despite finding himself frustrated by Khachanov’s ability at times during their quarter-final.
Djokovic got off to a perfect start in his eighth meeting with Khachanov, breaking the US Open semi-finalist in his very first service game to take a 3-0 lead. But the fourth seed then hit a series of uncharacteristic errors to hand Khachanov the break back at 3-2 as momentum quickly changed.
It was the world No 18 who then took three games on the bounce as he started to win the longer exchanges with Djokovic looking on the back foot at times, but the world No 7 quickly restored balance as he held to love. Sitting down with a 5-4 lead later in the set, the 35-year-old could be seen looking unhappy with something as he briefly called over to his box.
But he had nothing to worry about, breaking at a crucial take to take the set 6-4 in 41 minutes despite a brief wobble earlier on. The 21-time Grand Slam champion grew further irritated in the second game of the second set as he failed to capitalise on a break point on the Khachanov serve.
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Djokovic finally got his breakthrough during the Russian’s very next service game, taking a 4-1 lead in the second set with the semi-final now in touching distance. He continued to hold until he closed out a 6-4 6-3 victory in 87 minutes despite some frustrations, with commentators speculating whether the Serb was also unhappy with the string tension on his racket. The final game was no easy feat for the fourth seed, with Khachanov taking a 15-30 lead on his serve and trying to get the crowd behind him before ultimately losing.
It was another straight-set victory for Djokovic, who has not dropped a set since returning in Tel Aviv last week. But the fourth seed struggled at times compared to his convincing performances in the first two rounds, and will be hoping to find that form once again in time for tomorrow’s semi-final.
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The world No 7 now awaits the winner of the last quarter-final clash in Astana between Daniil Medvedev and Roberto Bautista Agut. And fans are hoping it will be a mouthwatering clash with the Russian in what would be their first meeting of the season after they faced off three times in 2021 – in the finals of the Australian Open, US Open and Paris Masters.
Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas will contest the other semi-final on Saturday with both men yet to drop a set this week, like Djokovic. And the Serb can mathematically guarantee his spot at the ATP Finals with a title win in Astana, as he only needs to finish in the top 20 of the race to qualify thanks to his Grand Slam title win in Wimbledon.