Aslan Karatsev has continued his love affair with Australia after claiming the Sydney Tennis Classic title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over former World No. 1 Andy Murray.
The 2021 Australian Open semi-finalist was at his brutal hitting best on Saturday night and Murray struggled to combat the sheer power of the Russian from the toss.
Murray, who received a wildcard into the event, had put together his best week of tennis since his last title run in Antwerp in 2019 but fell at the final hurdle.
In his fifth match in as many days the Scotsman started slowly and after being broken in the first game of the match, Karatsev raced out to a first set lead that he refused to relinquish.
The Russian was intent on attacking the second serve of Murray and that tactic paid dividends in the first when back-to-back double faults from the Scot handed him the set.
The second set began much like the first with the Russian gaining the early ascendancy with powerful groundstrokes that kept Murray pinned deep behind the baseline.
The three-times major winner showed his typical grit throughout and gave Karatsev everything he had in the fifth game of the second though.
It was here that Murray generated five break point opportunities, but the Russian had all the answers and eventually took the match and title in an hour and 32 minutes.
"I'd like to congratulate Aslan on a fantastic week," Murray said during the trophy presentations. "I know he arrived here late in Australia as he was recovering from COVID, so even more impressive to come back straight away and play at that level.”
Karatsev’s third ATP title will see him installed at World No. 15 when the ATP rankings are updated on Monday – a new career high.
The Russian will have pleasant memories of his run at Melbourne Park eleven months ago, but much has changed since then. The unheralded qualifier moniker is no more and in its place is an expectation of genuine contention.
A look ahead
Karatsev will open his Australian Open campaign on Monday against World No. 72 Jaume Munar of Spain. The pair have met twice before with their most recent encounter coming at last year’s US Open in which the Russian emerged victorious in four sets.
Murray will appreciate the extra day of rest when he faces a familiar World No. 23 Nikoloz Basilashvili for the second time in a week. The two have clashed twice previously with Murray the victor on both occasions. In their round two meeting at the Sydney Tennis Classic, Murray defeated Basilashvili 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 in three hours and 13 minutes.