Nikoloz Basilashvili, of Tbilisi, Georgia, is enjoying a breakout 2018 season on the ATP Tour. He became the first from his country to win an ATP World Tour title at Hamburg this summer, after making it through qualifying. After that, he broke into the top 40 in the world rankings for the first time, and is presently No. 37. He started the year by reaching the Australian Open third round.
On Sunday, he looks to climb the biggest hurdle so far in his blossoming career by taking on the world No. 1 and defending champion, Rafael Nadal, on the game’s biggest stage – Arthur Ashe Stadium – in his first US Open fourth round appearance.
Basilashvili has worked hard to make the Round of 16, playing 13 sets out of a maximum 15 in the first three rounds, starting with a five-set opening-round win against Aljas Bedene, followed by a four-set upset of American No. 18 Jack Sock.
Here are five fast facts about the 26-year-old Georgian:
If he wasn’t a tennis player, he would like to be a pilot. In addition to aviation, his other hobbies include movies and cooking. But right now, he says he has no time to pursue any outside interests.
“Tennis is such a tough sport, all week you need to stay focused. If you lose early, you need to stay focused to get ready for the next tournament,” he said.
Medicine and music run in his family. His father, Nodar, who introduced him to the game at the age of five, was a dancer in the Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet. His mother, Natalia, was a doctor. He has one brother, Tengiz.
Rafael Nadal is one of his idols. If trying to beat one of the world’s top players isn’t enough, adding to the challenge is the fact that that player is also one of Basilashvili’s idols. Growing up, he looked up to Nadal and Roger Federer and others in the top 10.
“My idols are everybody who is in the Top 10, because I think those guys are warriors. Whoever achieves the Top 10, he is my idol and I’m trying to be like him. I respect the guys so much,” he said.
He’s fluent in several languages. Pick a language. In addition to his native tongue, Basilashvili also speaks Russian and English.
He’s a family man. Basilashvili and his wife, Neka, married in September 2013. Their first child, a son, Lukas, was born on May 4, 2015.