“It is the second title in my career, so I am extremely happy. I just need to keep working and keep going,” said Khachanov. “I felt I was playing good here from the first day. It’s nice to play on a full court in the final, and I hope to come back next year.”
Between his maiden ATP World Tour title at the 2016 Chengdu Open (d. Ramos-Vinolas) and this week in Marseille, Khachanov’s best result was a semi-final appearance at the 2017 Gerry Weber Open (l. to Federer) last July. But the Russian turned that around in impressive fashion, earning victories against World No. 17 Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals and Pouille (No. 16). It is the first time that Khachanov has defeated two Top 20 players in the ATP Rankings in the same week, and he did not drop a set before the championship match.
The ninth seed notched his 10th win of 2018 to earn the trophy in the port city, remaining undefeated in tour-level finals (2-0). The Russian hit 16 aces in the one-hour, 49-minute clash to win his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with the recent Open Sud de France champion, who was bidding to win a second title in three weeks in southern France.
It was Khachanov who began the final on the front foot, securing the first break of the match in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. But, after three service holds from both men, Pouille fired a backhand down the line to get back on level terms as the Russian failed to serve the set out at 5-4. Not to be deterred, the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier went back on the offensive in the next game, re-establishing his break advantage with a strong forehand approach up the line before serving the set out at the second time of asking.
Pouille survived an early attack from Khachanov to hold serve in the second set, and secured the only break of the set in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. The Frenchman levelled the match at a set apiece three games later with another solid backhand up the line, much to the delight of the French crowd.
The final set proved a tight affair, with both players holding serve with reasonable comfort before Khachanov pounced at the most crucial of moments. With Pouille serving to force a final-set tie-break, the 21-year-old reached championship point. A missed overhead gave Pouille a reprieve, but Khachanov would not be denied. The Frenchman double faulted for the fourth time to hand the World No. 47 a second opportunity, which he took as Pouille dumped a forehand into the net to end the match.
Pouille fell just short of winning his second title of 2018 in front of home support, after triumphing in the nearby city of Montpellier just two weeks ago. The Frenchman was aiming to win his fifth title in 10 months.
“It was a good week. Karen is a young player who will be Top 20 soon. Congrats to him. Overall it was a great match,” Pouille said. “Another final is always positive. I hope that I can continue to play well in the next few weeks.”
Khachanov earns 250 ATP Rankings points and €115,150, while Pouille will take away 150 points and €60,645 for his runner-up finish.
Did You Know?
Khachanov is the first player who competed in last year’s inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan to win two ATP World Tour titles.