Russia’s Karen Khachanov set up an Olympic men’s singles final against either Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev beating Pablo Carreno Busta in the last four on Friday.
The 12th seed, a former top-10 player who has struggled for consistency for the past three seasons, produced an impressive display in Tokyo to dispatch Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3.
Khachanov is aiming to become the first Russian men’s singles champion since Yevgeny Kafelnikov won gold in Sydney 21 years ago.
World number one Djokovic, chasing a Grand Slam gold on the calendar, will face fourth seed Zverev in the second semi-final later on Friday.
Khachanov started strong and took control with a break in game five before capping off an excellent first set with another in game nine, hitting 10 winners and only four unforced errors.
He carried that momentum into the early stages of the second, but Carreno Busta managed to avoid a break point in the opener.
That seemed to give the sixth seed confidence and he earned his first break point at 2-2 with a raspy inside-out forehand.
But he missed his chance, hitting the net cord and Khachanov continued to hold serve.
This proved costly, as Khachanov’s ferocious strikes continued to break through and he broke in the very next game with another forehand winner.
The 25-year-old claimed victory on his first match point with another booming groundstroke past a failed Carreno Busta.
Khachanov, who reached his second Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon earlier this month, will play the biggest match of his career in Sunday’s final.
The world number 25 has lost four of his five encounters with Djokovic, although he beat the Serb in the 2018 Paris Masters final, while he won two of his four matches against Zverev.
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