Khachanov Wins Doha Title, Ends Mensik’s Dream Week

Karen Khachanov and Jakub Mensik (photo: QTF)

DOHA/WASHINGTON, February 24, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

With a run to his first ATP Tour final at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Czech teenager Jakub Mensik already secured his Top 100 debut in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at No. 87 on Monday.

At 18 years, five months and 24 days, Mensik aimed to become the youngest Doha champion in tournament history – and the 10th youngest champion since the ATP Tour was established in 1990 – in just his third tour-level event.

Could Mensik beat Doha second seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, nine years his senior and ranked 17th in the world? After all, Khachanov came in 5-0 in sets this week, looking to become the third ATP Tour champion in 2024 to win the title without losing a set?

As it happened, Khachanov defeated the 116th-ranked Mensik, 7-6 (12), 6-4, in an hour and 49 minutes to capture his sixth ATP Tour title overall and first since Zhuhai last year. The 27-year-old improved to 9-1 against Czech players, including a 9-match winning streak since losing to Lukas Rosol at St. Petersburg back in 2013, when Mensik was just seven.

“Every title is a special one,” Khachanov said during his on-court interview. “Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure, here in Doha, it is one of the nicest trophies.”

Khachanov eked out the first set by winning a marathon 26-point tiebreaker 14-12. He saved four set points from Mensik and put away the opening set on his fourth set-point opportunity after the Czech teen netted a third-shot backhand return that ended the 64-minute set.

Then, Khachanov converted a break point in the opening game of the second set and remained steady throughout the remainder of the title match. He wrapped up the title triumph with his ninth ace straight up the middle.

Khachanov, who won 83 percent of his first-serve points and faced no break points, withstood 16 aces from Mensik and outpointed him 77-69.

“I thought yesterday’s [tie-break] was preparation for today, 14-12 [against Alexei Popyrin],” said Khachanov, who defeated Alexei Popyrin, 7-6 (13), 6-2, in Friday’s semifinal round. “Today I couldn’t believe it was the same score, same tie-break. … At the end of the day, I tried to stay calm. I stayed strong, I’m extremely happy that I won the first set. It lifted me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence to step up in the second.”

While Khachanov’s excellent week ended Mensik’s dream run, the Czech teenager made a big impression in Doha with earlier victories against No. 5 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, former World No. 1 Andy Murray, World No. 5 and top seed Andrey Rublev, and former Doha champ Gaël Monfils, dropping only two sets in his four wins.

“For sure this week will be unforgettable for me,” Mensik said during his post-match news conference, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “From the beginning, I didn’t even get to this tournament on my own ranking. I had to use the Next Gen spot, so I tried to enjoy every moment on the court. I didn’t expect that I will go through to the final. So I’m really happy with my performance.

“I am sad and also happy at the same time, because a tough loss today, but yeah, it was a great match.”

Murray and Venus win Doha doubles title

ATP Tour veterans Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand won their first doubles title of 2024 at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The top seeds held off unseeded Italian duo Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego, 7-6 (0), 2-6, 10-8, in one hour and 39 minutes.

The British/Kiwi pair – Murray is 38 and Venus 36 – won four crowns last season. They dropped just one set all tournament en route to the Doha title, which was the first title for either this season.

Meanwhile, Musetti and Sonego, who are both ranked in the Top 50 in singles and played in the singles draw earlier in the week, were competing in their first tour-level doubles final as a team.

The victory was worth $73,770 to the Murray/Venus team as well as 250 ATP points.

By the numbers

Players are 10-22 in finals when attempting to win their first ATP Tour title since the start of the 2023 season.

“Quotable …”

“It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far. Today again with Gaël, he played unbelivable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

“I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.”

–Czech teenager Jakub Mensik after defeating Gaël Monfils in Friday’s semifinal round to advance to Saturday’s title match.