Sunday, January 16, 2022

Murray was blown away by Karatsev in the Sydney final as the 2021 Russian shows were no fluke

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Murray was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 2021 breakthrough player Karatsev in his first final since winning the title in Antwerp in 2019

Murray had blunted Reilly Opelka’s massive serve in the semis with a tactically clever performance on return and his own serve – but the more rounded Karatsev and the impact of more than seven hours on the court during the week proved too much.

Andy Murray was stunned by Aslan Karatsev as the Russian sealed victory at the Sydney Tennis Classic in straight sets to deny the former world No. 1 his first title in more than two years.

Winning another title is a stated goal for Murray in 2022 and it would have been nice to tick that off just two weeks into the new year, but Karatsev had other ideas.

The Russian had already beaten a British player in Dan Evans in the semi-finals, although he appeared to have done his compatriot a favor by keeping Karatsev out for more than three hours.

The 28-year-old, who made a sensational breakthrough at last year’s Australian Open with a run from qualifying to the semis, showed no ill effects though, hitting winner after winner to see Murray throw his hands in the air and wondered what he could do to stop the Russian. In the end, it was nothing and Karatsev claimed a title he fully deserved.

Andy Murray – 4/10

Murray would probably rate himself lower, such a harsh critic as he is.

In all honesty, however, he offered very little resistance to speak of until he was 3-1 down in the second set and at that point it was a mountain to climb.

There was the odd moment of magic, like the quintessential crosscourt forehand winner behind Karatsev sweeping up the side of the ball to curve it over the net and away from his opponent. His first serve percentage was better in the second set if we’re looking for positives, but he was so low in the first, just 48 percent, that it’s a low bar to look up.

Overall, this has been a good week for Murray, albeit ahead of his first Australian Open in three years, and a one-sided final shouldn’t detract from that.

Aslan Karatsev – 8/10

That was the Aslan of February 2021, the lion who, in one of the big underdog runs, made it through qualifying to the semifinals of the Australian Open.

On this run, the crowd was almost always behind him. In Sydney, they were all for Murray, but he didn’t seem concerned. He unfolded 14 winners in a stunning first set that seemed to break Murray’s spirit, especially when combined with just four unforced errors and just two points lost on serve. “Playstation tennis,” Robbie Koenig called it as a comment.

His level dropped in the second set and there was a double fault on match point, but it was an impressive performance. Those in his section of the Australian Open draw should feel well forewarned.

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