World No. 20 Aslan Karatsev got the perfect lift ahead of the Australian Open, beginning on Monday, as the Russian produced near-flawless tennis to defeat Great Britain's former world No.1 Andy Murray 6-3, 6-2 in the Sydney Tennis Classic here.This was the Karatsev's third ATP Tour title and denied Murray, the winner of three Grand Slams including two Wimbledon titles, his 43rd career title on Saturday. Karatsev has now won three of the four ATP Tour finals he has contested, with his only loss coming against Italy's Matteo Berrettini in Belgrade in 2021."Definitely it gives (me) energy (and) confidence, especially when I was supposed to play (the multi-nation) ATP Cup. I didn't," Karatsev was quoted as saying by ATP Tour."So to start the year with the title and I (can) arrive to Melbourne (Australian Open) already winning matches, a tournament, it's for sure giving (me) some confidence."It was the Russian's maiden ATP Tour final in Australian, but not the first success he had experienced here. At last year's Australian Open, Karatsev had exploded on to the scene, winning eight matches to come through qualifying and reach the semifinals before losing to Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who went on to defend the title.
Since becoming the first player in the Open Era to make the semifinals 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 No. 20, Karatsev reached the Sydney final via three-set thrillers against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy and Daniel Evans of the US, 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 clinical return winner off Murray's first serve to bring up two break points in Murray's first service game.Karatsev follows in the footsteps of compatriot and world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who won the Sydney 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.