Tournament 9 Jan 2017

Auckland Welcomes Karen Khachanov

The ASB Classic is excited to see big Russian hope Karen Khachanov on the eve of his first appearance at the tournament. Ranked 53 in the world and just 20 year’s old, he’s part of a small contingent of players targeted by the ATP Tour as the next wave of tennis superstars.

Khachanov touched down in Auckland for the first time on Saturday. He is making the most of being a professional tennis player on Tour and is determined to see the world as he climbs the rankings.

Top New Zealand chef Nic Watt welcomed the Russian with a trip to his secret diving spot on Waiheke Island, with the Watt family and dog Eddie in tow. New Zealand doubles player Marcus Daniell jumped in the helicopter as Khachanov’s wingman and was excited to show off New Zealand’s pristine environment to the foreign player. The players left Mechanics Bay for Man O’war Bay on Sunday.

With only three years of experience on Tour, Khachanov says one of the best parts of being a tennis player is seeing new places and meeting locals who welcome him in. Watt dove for scallops and shucked them fresh off the back of the boat to give the Russian a taste of a traditional Kiwi summer.

The Russian is on the rise reaching his career high ranking of 52 in November and winning the Chengdu Open in October, his first ATP title. He has been selected for the ATP’s Next Generation programme having jumped 100 places in the last 12 months, and is one of only six male players under the age of 21 in the Top 100. His best win in 2016 was an upset over world no. 14 and ASB Classic defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut at the Barcelona Open, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3.

At 198cm and 88 kilograms he’s a power player and coached by Galo Blanco who brought through world no. 3 Milos Raonic. Blanco and Raonic split ways in 2013, with Blanco picking Khachanov as his next project.

The Next Generation programme was launched in 2016 in Indian Wells. It’s a collection of players who are within the Top 200 in the world and were born in 1996 or later. They’re a key marketing focus for the Tour who is dedicated to building their profiles as they build into the footsteps of the Big Four. The Tour pushed for Khachanov to be the player who got to experience Waiheke with Watt and be interviewed by media as part of that drive. The Next Generation ATP Finals are in Milan in November, the week before the ATP Finals in London. It features the top 8 players aged 21 or under, of which Khachanov would currently fit the criteria.

The ASB Classic targeted Khachanov as part of their investment in the next generation of tennis stars and is excited to bring depth to the men’s draw with such exciting young talent.

Tournament Director Karl Budge said, “We are really excited about the prospect of Khachanov. We have seen Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray play in Auckland and go on to reach the top of the men’s game. We’ve invested in Khachanov because we want to give New Zealand tennis fans access to the best players of today and tomorrow.”

Khachanov will play his first round of singles against Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu on Tuesday’s day session.