As the elite tennis scene resumed in Zhuhai, Karen Khachanov and Yoshihito Nishioka embarked on their journeys, likely unaware that both would be vying for the coveted title in the final showdown.
Starting the season on high notes, both faced challenges post-Roland Garros. Khachanov grappled with a back injury, and Nishioka battled a dip in form. But resilience has a name in Zhuhai, as both players showcased exemplary performances at the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, inching one step closer to their first 2023 ATP Tour title.
The Russian top seed, Khachanov, demonstrated unmatched finesse, outperforming Sebastian Korda in a gripping semi-final match. On the other hand, Nishioka, the eighth seed, navigated past a struggling Aslan Karatsev.
These talented athletes have met four times on the Lexus ATP Head2Head stage, with Khachanov enjoying a 3-1 lead. Their last duel at the Australian Open saw Khachanov triumph over Nishioka, who admitted being outfoxed by his opponent's strategy. Yet, Nishioka remains optimistic, believing the faster courts in Zhuhai might tilt the odds in his favor.
Nishioka's Birthday Boost; Khachanov's Praise
Khachanov, pursuing his fifth ATP Tour title, acknowledged Nishioka's formidable strategy skills. "His main strength? His legs and flat backhand. He's an intelligent player who knows the game inside out," Khachanov noted.
For Nishioka, this tournament holds sentimental value as he turns 28 just a day post the finals. Previously, he clinched titles around his birthday week, hinting at a unique, auspicious trend. "This week has always been special. Winning another title this week would be surreal," Nishioka reflected.
On the other hand, Khachanov expressed his yearning to reclaim his Top 10 form, acknowledging the challenges he faced after his injury. “It's a journey. While aspirations were high, I had to face the reality of the situation,” he said.
In a separate contest, the doubles finale will feature the duo Jamie Murray and Michael Venus battling against the American pair, Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow, setting the stage before the singles climax.