Aslan Karatsev dominated Andy Murray to claim his third ATP Tour title at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Saturday.
Karatsev defeated the former World No. 1 6-3, 6-2 to deny Murray a 47th career title. The Russian has now won three of the four ATP Tour finals he has contested, with his sole defeat coming against Matteo Berrettini in Belgrade in 2021.
“Definitely it gives [me] energy [and] confidence, especially when I was supposed to play ATP Cup. I didn’t, “Karatsev said.” So to start the year with the title and I [can] arrive to Melbourne already winning matches, a tournament, it’s for sure giving [me] some confidence. “
It was Karatsev’s first ATP Tour final on Australian soil, but not the first success the Russian had experienced Down Under. It was 12 months ago, at the 2021 Australian Open, that Karatsev exploded on to the scene, winning eight matches to come through qualifying and reach the semi-finals before losing to Novak Djokovic.
Since becoming the first player in the Open Era to make the semi-finals of a Grand Slam on his debut, Karatsev has established himself as a formidable force on the ATP Tour, reaching a career-high World No. 15 after winning his second ATP Tour title in Moscow. Currently ranked World No. 20, Karatsev reached the Sydney final via three-set thrillers against Lorenzo Sonego and Daniel Evans, but he was dominant from the beginning of his first career meeting against Murray.
Murray had been broken just twice in 45 service games in Sydney coming into the match, but his serve was under pressure from the start against Karatsev, who set the tone with a clean return winner off Murray’s first serve to bring up two break points in Murray’s first service game. Consolidating the ensuing break to love, Karatsev played a near-perfect first set, striking 14 winners against just four unforced errors. His formidable returning di lui contributed to Murray’s struggles on serve and by the time the British player double-faulted twice to go down 3-6, he had landed only 48 per cent of first serves compared to Karatsev’s 72 per cent.
Karatsev’s fautless performance continued in the second set as he immediately broke Murray’s serve for the third time.
The crowd on the Ken Rosewall Arena were in full voice as the British player managed to get on the board for 1-3 with an ace, and some typically dogged defense from Murray saw him secure his first break points of the match in the next game . In a 13-minute game, Karatsev fended off five break points and some of Murray’s best tennis of the day to hold for 4-1. Even Karatsev’s first double fault on match point only momentarily delayed his victory.
“It was [an] important moment to keep the level, keep the serve. I lost a bit the concentration on the first serve. Especially against him it’s important to have a first serve, because on the second serve he steps in and can dictate the point more, “Karatsev said.” It was a tough game. I tried to manage it, to stay calm, to stick my plan. “
Karatsev follows in the footsteps of compatriot Daniil Medvedev, who won the Sydney Tennis Classic in 2019. He finished the 91-minute match with a total of 29 winners and 14 unforced errors, having saved all five break points he faced.
“I’d like to congratulate Aslan on a fantastic week. I know he also arrived here late in Australia, he was recovering from COVID, so even more impressive to come back straight away and play at that level. Good job and all the best for the Aussie Open, “Murray said after receiving the runner-up trophy.
“I’d like to thank my team who are here for all of their help this week. It’s my first time back in the finals for three years, it’s been a long road to get back here but I couldn’t have done it without all of your help so thank you.
“… I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who put the event on, this is my first time in Sydney, you did a fantastic job. It’s not easy times just now to run events but I really enjoyed it so thanks so much to everyone for putting this event on.
“Finally, to all of you who came out to support tonight, what an amazing atmosphere to play in, thank you, it was so good. I’ve really missed playing in front of these sorts of crowds and these sorts of matches. Unfortunately the result didn’t go my way tonight but I’ll keep trying my best to come back and have more nights like this. “
After lifting the trophy, Karatsev said: “First of all, congrats to Andy. Big effort to come back, to play unbelievable this week. I want to congratulate also your team.
“Thank you very much to my team, we are doing an amazing job. Thank you very much to everybody here for coming to support, it was an unbelievable atmosphere in a difficult situation. It’s a difficult time to make this tournament happen, so thank you to everyone. “