ANDY MURRAY has failed to win silverware on his return to Australia – three years after he essentially retired from the sport.
Despite having the backing of local support, the British tennis hero was humbled 6-3 6-3 by Aslan Karatsev in the final of the Sydney Tennis Classic.
Andy Murray was beaten handily by Aslan Karatsev in the Sydney Tennis Classic finalCredit: AFP
The Russian played brilliantly throughout the contest and was too good for the BritCredit: AFP
Murray was cheered on by a legion of Scottish supporters Down UnderCredit: EPA
This was only Murray’s second ATP Tour final since January 2019 when he broke down in tears in Melbourne and revealed for the first time his plans to quit the sport.
It was only the intervention of career-saving surgery in London on a troublesome hip that enabled him to reboot his tennis aspirations.
What he has achieved Down Under over the years has earned him plenty of fans and the crowd were overwhelmingly in the corner of former Wimbledon champion. Many ex-pats had arrived in kilts and carrying Saltires.
Murray had his concentration broken at the start of the match by a strange noise in the stadium and very quickly he had his serve broken, too, by the hard-hitting Russian.
A request in the eighth game for someone in the stands to keep still further underlined his irritation and lack of focus.
Something had clearly spooked the Scot – he delivered four double faults in the first set – and given the superb returning of Karatsev, it was no surprise he was struggling to compete.
A look at the first-set stats made grim reading for those supporting this son of Dunblane.
There had been no break opportunities and Murray only made 47 per cent of his first serves – a huge drop compared to the 72 per cent enjoyed by his opponent.
When Karatsev raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set, you feared that Murray was going to be blown off court without a trace.
Of course, writing off Murray completely is done at your own peril and those street-fighting qualities have never gone.
The fifth game of the second set – Murray was 3-1 down – lasted almost 13 minutes and contained five break points.
Had Murray converted one of those chances then you would have maybe backed him, certainly on previous, hard fourth experiences, to take this contest into a third set.
Karatsev, the world No20, eventually held on and after more than 90 minutes on court, the 28-year-old claimed a third career title.
Murray will now fly to Melbourne where he will face Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the Australian Open.