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Karen Khachanov battled for four hours and 23 minutes before falling short against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Khachanov: 'I Gave Everything I Had'

No. 27 seed upbeat despite tough loss against Nadal

A loss is a loss. But if there’s any such thing as a moral victory, 22-year-old Karen Khachanov earned one on Friday at the US Open.

While the two-time ATP World Tour titlist was unable to advance to the fourth round, falling in four sets against World No. 1 and three-time champion Rafael Nadal, he showed the world that he is plenty capable of competing with the best players on the sport’s biggest stages.

“I gave everything what I had. I think everybody saw it. I'm proud of myself that I could play a good game today, fight till the end. Yeah, just a few points difference that it could go another way,” Khachanov said. “Big respect to Rafa. That's why he's No. 1 in the world, such a great fighter. Yeah, just happy about my performance. I hope to keep going that way.”

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Based on the way the No. 27 seed played in Arthur Ashe Stadium, there should be little doubt in the direction he is moving: up. Khachanov qualified for last year’s inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, and he reached the semi-finals at this month’s Rogers Cup, and the confidence he has gained from those experiences showed.

“I was mentally ready to play this match. Physically, I was ready. That's why at the end I played a match like that,” Khachanov said. “Of course, I had an early break [against me] in the fourth set, but still I was pushing, saying to myself, ‘C'mon, I can still break him, try to come back’.” 

Nadal was plenty complimentary of his opponent as well. After all, he was the one chasing down all of Khachanov’s massive groundstrokes, especially off the forehand side. If anyone should be impressed, it would be Nadal, who had to raise his level just to get past this year’s Marseille champion.

“At some point I have to say congratulations to Karen, too, that he had a great attitude on court during the whole time, playing four hours 20, fighting all the time, playing aggressive, playing great tennis, having some mistakes at some important moments, too, but without saying not a bad word,” Nadal said. “That's a great thing for tennis, and that's a great thing for him. With that attitude, I am sure he will have a lot of success.”

And again, Khachanov lost the match. But while it’ll sting for now, this could be the moment he looks back on when he does make a major breakthrough as the performance that helped him believe in what he is truly capable of.

“Now, I'm not the happiest guy in the world. I lost the match. But, like I said, after some time, maybe one day, two days, I will think back and just watch the match. Of course, it will give me I think more experience, more confidence. To see which level I can play, which level I played here and the other Grand Slams or the other tournaments. That just shows that I'm really close to this high level against top guys,” Khachanov said. “Hopefully it will be soon on my side.”

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