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Andy Murray fails to end drought as Karatsev wins Sydney Classic final

Andy Murray fails to end drought as Karatsev wins Sydney Classic final

  • No 1 seed Aslan Karatsev impresses with 6-3, 6-3 victory
  • Murray was hoping to end two-year Tour title drought

Andy Murray’s spirited, promising run to the final of the Sydney International came to a blunt end on Saturday as he was defeated in the championship match by Russia’s Aslan Karatsev. Murray was unable to finish his positive week with a 47th ATP title as he lost a one-sided match 6-3, 6-3.

Murray had arrived in the final with great wins over Reilly Opelka, the fourth seed, and Nikoloz Basilashvili, the second seed. But in the final Karatsev commanded the vast majority of exchanges against Murray with his pace, weight of shot and his ability to change directions down the line, eventually dismantling Murray as he combined high-octane ball-striking with minimal errors.

Karatsev’s rise has been one of the notable stories of the men’s game over the past year. He is 28 and has spent most of his 11-year career outside the world’s top 200, sometimes not even close. But since the pandemic brought the tour to a halt, he has established himself at the top of the game, breaking through at last year’s Australian Open with a run to the semi-finals, where he was beaten by the eventual winner, Novak Djokovic. Now the world No 20 is already in the process of backing up a brilliant 2021 season, with his third title in 10 months.

For Murray’s part, while he played superbly against Opelka, he had nothing in response to the sheer brutality of Karatsev’s shot-making. Even as he generated break points towards the end of the second set, the match remained on Karatsev’s racket.

After the match, Murray’s voice cracked with emotion as he said: “I’d also like to thank my family back home. I don’t know if you’re all watching but I miss you all. 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.”

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Photograph: Michael Dwyer/AP

Murray is playing with a new racket this year. Having remained with the same specifications for many years, he has increased the head size from 95 square inches to 98 square inches, allowing him to generate more spin and depth.

After he struggled to piece together wins in 2021, Murray can take great heart from his run in Sydney and the manner in which he ousted a variety of opponents. The 34-year-old will rise back into the top 115.

Aslan Karatsev of Russia celebrates with the trophy after beating Andy Murray

He said: “It’s not a goal of mine to get to a specific ranking, like in the next year. But improving your ranking and getting yourself up into the top 50, top 30, top 20 allows you to be seeded in tournaments, and potentially makes it easier to have better draws or to have a better run in a major event rather than, for example, like playing [Stefanos] Tsitsipas in the first round like I did at the US Open.”

Murray will now head to Melbourne for the Australian Open, where he was a beaten finalist five times between 2010 and 2016. In the first round he will face a rematch of his second-round match against Basilashvili, who he also defeated at last year’s Wimbledon. In Sydney their three-set match stretched beyond the three-hour mark.

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