LONDON (Reuters) – Like reliable Russian machines, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev advanced to the third round at Wimbledon on Wednesday, keeping the torch alight for tennis’s so-called next generation after the flames of some of their contemporaries were snuffed out.
The ninth-ranked Khachanov ended Feliciano Lopez’s superb grasscourt run with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 6-4 victory while Medvedev was equally untroubled in a 6-7(6) 6-1 6-4 6-4 win over Australia’s Alexei Popyrin.
Their victories are a shot in the arm for the younger generation after two of the sport’s most highly regarded prospects, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, were bundled out on Monday.
In the almost futile game of predicting which of tennis’s up-and-coming talents could emerge as a genuine threats to Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the Russians have been frequently mentioned.
Yet both have turned 23 without making a major mark at a Grand Slam and an even younger generation has begun to emerge that are expected to challenge when the game’s dominant trio finally decide to hang up their rackets.
Khachanov’s best Grand Slam performance came at this year’s French Open where he reached the quarter-final, a result that has propelled him to a career-high ranking and raised expectations that it is his time to shine.
Against the 37-year-old Lopez, whose career was in the middle of an Indian summer after he won both the singles and doubles at Queen’s, he was efficient in grinding down an opponent who had taken the upper hand early on.
The Russian, who will next face Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, was clinical, taking four of his 10 break points, and resilient enough to save eight of the 10 he offered Lopez.
“The match was very equal. It’s not that he was getting better and better and I was not playing good enough to keep the match … But … somehow I got broken at those (big) moments,” said Lopez.
Medvedev’s best Grand Slam run was to the fourth round in Australia in January and Wednesday’s victory ensured he made the third round at Wimbledon for the second year running.
Having broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time in October last year, the 13th-ranked Medvedev, who plays world number 23 David Goffin next, is also currently at a career high.
With the highly rated Andrey Rublev playing Sam Querrey in his second round clash on Thursday, the Russians are well placed to continue their advance.
(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Alison Williams)