Karatsev Continues Title Pursuit In Moscow

Russian faces Cilic in the final

Russia’s Aslan Karatsev overcame countryman Karen Khachanov 7-6(7), 6-1 on Saturday at the VTB Kremlin Cup to reach his third tour-level final of the season and keep alive his slim hopes of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals.

The 28-year-old saved four set points in the first set, before he raised his level in the second set, breaking twice to advance after one hour and 41 minutes. Karatsev, who had never been beyond the second round in four previous main-draw appearances in Moscow, now trails Khachanov 1-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.

"I tried to not think about the score in the tie-break and just play point by point," Karatsev said in his on-court interview. "At 5/6 I made a great return and he got nervous and that is how I managed to win it."

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Karatsev is currently 13th (2,180 points) in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, 775 points behind ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz who occupies the final qualification spot with eighth-placed Rafael Nadal out for the rest of the season with a foot injury. Should Karatsev win the title, he would close to 675 points of the Pole.

The Russian has enjoyed a breakthrough 2021 season, advancing to his first major semi-final at the Australian Open, before he clinched his maiden tour-level trophy in Dubai. Karatsev also reached the championship match in Belgrade.

"It means the world to me [to reach the final]. I have been to this tournament many times, so this final I will play tomorrow will be special for me," Karatsev added.

The home favourite will face Marin Cilic in the final after the sixth seed moved to within one win of capturing his third VTB Kremlin Cup title, downing Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4.

“It was a tough match, Ricardas played well,” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “The first set was great from my side. I served amazing but then Ricardas began to find his rhythm and played much better in the second set. I managed to play a tough second set. Mentally it was difficult, but I managed to play my best tennis at the right time.”

Cilic has fond memories at the ATP 250 event, having triumphed against Roberto Bautista Agut in the 2014 and 2015 finals, before he advanced to the semi-finals in 2019.

In a strong serving performance against Berankis, Cilic fired 10 aces and won 83 per cent (33/40) behind his first delivery to advance after one hour and 31 minutes and extend his ATP Head2Head series lead to 2-0.

The Croatian, who has dropped just one set en route to the final, will aim to clinch his 20th tour-level title in Sunday’s championship match.

“It is amazing to get this support and whatever happens tomorrow, it will be a great day to enjoy another final in my career and another final here in Moscow,” Cilic added.

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Earlier this season, the World No. 41 overcame Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime to win the title in Stuttgart. The 33-year-old also advanced to the last four in Singapore and Estoril.

Berankis was competing in his first tour-level semi-final since Pune in February 2020. The 31-year-old was bidding to win his maiden ATP Tour trophy in Moscow.

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