These two players have already faced each other three times, in 2021:
- Rotterdam (hard indoor) in March: Karen Khachanov won (6-2 6-2).
- Barcelona (clay) in April: Cameron Norrie won (6-4 3-6 6-3).
- Lyon (clay) in May : Cameron Norrie won (6-1 6-1).
The British player leads in this face-off, but the Russian won the only match played off the clay court.
Cameron Norrie has only played once in this Masters 1000 in Canada. It was in 2019 in Montreal and he had fallen in the 2nd round (victory against Fucsovics in 3 sets and defeat against Zverev in 2 sets including a tie-break).
For his part, Karen Khachanov has played in this Canadian tournament in the last three editions:
- 2017 (Montreal): defeat in the 1st round against Pablo Carreno Busta.
- 2018 (Toronto): defeat in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal (in two sets, including a tie-break).
- 2019 (Montreal): defeat in the semifinals against Daniil Medvedev (in two sets, including a tie-break). In this last edition, we remember that he had won against Wawrinka, Auger-Aliassime and Zverev.
I wanted to write about this match because it caught my eye. We are indeed dealing with two men on an excellent dynamic. Cameron Norrie is playing the best tennis of his career (which allowed him to lift his first ATP trophy), while Karen Khachanov is back to his best (he came out of the Olympic Games with a silver medal).
First of all, it is important to know that this new edition of the Masters 1000 of Canada will be played in Toronto. This will be a first for Cameron Norrie, who had played this tournament in Montreal in his only previous participation. As for Karen Khachanov, he had the opportunity to play in this city in 2018 and he had reached the semi-finals.
Secondly, you should know that there will be reinforced sanitary measures in Toronto with a compulsory sanitary bubble and a limitation of the number of spectators (at the last news, maximum 5000 spectators). This could have an impact on the performance and motivation of the players.
Karen Khachanov seems to me to be the best placed to come away with the victory. To begin with, the Russian has often succeeded in this Masters 1000 in Canada (he remains on two semi-finals). Also, he seems to me to be better able to handle mentally the sanitary bubbles and the lack of atmosphere in the stands (just look at his performances at the Tokyo-Olympic Games).
Tennis-wise, Cameron Norrie is not (or no longer) the three-week-old rabbit that is easily crushed by simply turning on the full headlights. The British player has a very high confidence level and this allows him to play a relaxed style of tennis.
In the rallies, Cameron Norrie might be able to get the better of Karen Khachanov when the rallies start to last. The British player is able to return many balls. Pushing the Russian to play an extra shot could make the difference.
However, the last winner of Los Cabos has some weaknesses that Karen Khachanov could be able to exploit. Indeed, Cameron Norrie is not the most stable on his service games. I’m thinking in particular of his second balls which are not very dangerous and which could allow the Russian to win precious points.
In the rallies, I expect an even battle. However, the speed of the Canadian surface could benefit Khachanov. Khachanov should be able to stay safe on his service games more than once (I must say that he has regained a certain reliability on his serves). In the rallies, he has everything he needs to avoid getting caught up in long rallies. Khachanov has the power and aggression to pull Norrie back and get some winners.
Also, you should know that Karen Khachanov is quite comfortable against left-handed opponents on hardcourts with over 70% wins.
We could see a nice fight from the back of the court and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a match in three sets (Norrie remains a very tough opponent). On the other hand, Karen Khachanov seems to be in a better position to get through the first round of this Masters 1000 tournament, which he has done well in the past.
Prediction: Karen Khachanov