Karen Khachanov blasted his way past Alexander Bublik on Sunday to get off to a winning start at the Western & Southern Open.
In his first match for 177 days, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, 11th seed Khachanov completed a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 84 minutes for a place in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
“It was my first match in six months and it was a little bit strange for everyone, with the restrictions and no fans,” said Khachanov. “But you can focus on the tennis. I wasn’t expecting to play unbelievably well, but I got the win and am happy to compete again.”
The Russian, whose last tour-level match came on 28 February when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals, will next challenge Pablo Carreno Busta.
Khachanov broke serve in the first game and clinched the 41-minute opener when Bublik hit a forehand into the net. At 4-4 in the second set, Khachanov hit a slower-paced return to the net-rushing Bublik and then followed it in to place a backhand winner. Khachanov hit seven aces and won 79 per cent of his first-service points.
Diego Schwartzman, who was sidelined with a left leg injury for much of February prior to the ATP Tour suspension, came through a highly competitive opener against Casper Ruud 7-6(2), 6-2 in one hour and 56 minutes.
The ninth-seeded Argentine broke clear at 2/2 in the first set tie-break, winning five straight points and finishing with a crosscourt forehand return winner. Schwartzman then won the first three games of the second set and went on to extend his perfect ATP Head2Head record to 5-0 against Ruud. He now faces Reilly Opelka.