Andy Murray suffered an agonising defeat in his first ATP tour final for two years on Saturday as he was outclassed by the masterful Aslan Karatsev in straight sets at the Sydney Open Classic.
Murray was on a high after beating American Reily Opelka in the semi-finals but looked to have run out of steam – with Karatsev taking him apart in two sets, outmuscling him with blistering power.
The top seed thumped winners from all parts of the court and wrapped up a 6-3 6-3 victory for his third title on the ATP Tour.
Andy Murray was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Aslan Karatsev in the final of the Sydney Open Classic
Karatsev picked Murray apart with some beautiful shots and brilliant accuracy on Saturday
The Brit gave everything and fought hard to stay in the contest but looked somewhat jaded
It was a disappointing day for the ex-world No 1 but he can take positives in to the Aussie Open
It was Murray’s first final since October 2019 – when he beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the European Open in Antwerp, but he couldn’t pull off another stunning win as he continues his search for his old form following hip surgery.
Karatsev was one of the most surprising grand slam semi-finalists in history when he reached the last four in Melbourne 12 months ago as an unheralded qualifier.
But the 28-year-old, who had previously spent his whole career on the lower rungs of the tennis circuit, has proved since that he belongs at the sport’s top table, breaking into the top 20 and winning titles in Dubai and Moscow last year.
He defeated Dan Evans in the semi-finals in Sydney to prevent a first ever all-British ATP Tour final and broke the Murray serve in the first game.
Karatsev had beaten Dan Evans in three sets and showed he belongs at the top of the table
Murray’s service game was a mixed bag – producing some aces but a handful of double faults
He missed a golden chance to break Karatsev in the fifth game of the second set
Karatsev was able to work the angles brilliantly with an impressive serve and volley display
The Scot paid for a low first-serve percentage in the opening set but Karatsev was superb, claiming half his points with winners and making only four unforced errors.
The second set began much like the first as the 28-year-old Karatsev broke early to seize the advantage, consistently hurting Murray with a barrage of powerful winners from the back of the court.
Murray showed glimpses of his old self in the fifth game that lasted nearly 13 minutes as the Briton battled valiantly to get a break back, but Karatsev weathered the storm and held on.
Murray still has to wait to break into the world’s top 100 ahead of a rematch against Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Australian Open
It was a huge missed opportunity for Murray – who had a double break point before being pushed back to deuce, and he missed several other opportunities to break his opponent – who won the game with his first advantage.
And the Russian eventually took the match in one hour 32 minutes to claim his third career title.
Defeat means the 34-year-old must also wait to make it back into the top 100 but he can head to Melbourne with confidence for the Australian Open and a rematch with Nikoloz Basilashvili – who he beat in the second round this week – on Tuesday.
Relive all the drama and action from the Sydney final with our live blog from Sportsmail’s OLI GAMP.