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‘I’m happy I can inspire kids’: Kremlin Cup defending champion & world no. 8 Karen Khachanov (VIDEO)

Russian tennis player Karen Khachanov, who defends his Kremlin Cup title week, said he is happy he can inspire kids attending the tournament, recalling that he himself asked for autographs from tennis stars as a child.

Talking to RT Sport, the world no. 8 stressed that he wants to defend the title he claimed last year, adding that he is really enjoying playing in front of the home crowd in Moscow.

I won this tournament last year and it was a dream come true for me,” Khachanov told RT Sport after his hard fought round of 32 win over Germany's Peter Kohlschreiber.

You know this year, again in any tournament that I’m in, especially here in Moscow, I would like to go as far as possible. So, definitely match by match I want to fight for the title.”

The 23-year-old revealed that he doesn’t feel the pressure of being Russia’s main hope at the tournament following the withdrawal of Daniil Medvedev who was coming into the Kremlin Cup as the no.1 seed. 

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I think the higher you go the more expectations you have to try to go deeper in the tournament. So I take it really in the same way as if Daniil would still be in the draw with me, you know,” the player said.

Khachanov also said he strives to be a role model for young generation of players who watch his games.

The player recalled how he that he also requested autographs from former Russian stars he admired during his childhood.

Russian citizens are waiting for the tournament the whole year. They were really waiting for me and Daniil and Andrey [Rublev] to play,” the player told RT.

So I’m really thankful to all the people who came out and especially kids. I remember myself being at this tournament and asking for autographs of our ex-players like Marat (Safin), Nikolay Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Mikhail Youzhny. So, it’s the same way and I’m happy that I can inspire some kids.”

Khachanov is Russia's best shot at winning the Kremlin Cup and a favorite to defend his title at the city's Krylatskoye Ice Palace, but will have to come through a tough quarterfinal match against Italian Andreas Seppi on Friday.