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Russian-Israeli tennis player Karatsev beats UK’s Murray to win Sydney tournament

World number 20 powers past Scottish player in a near-flawless performance; Murray, who has undergone career-saving hip surgery, was making 1st appearance in a final since 2019

Aslan Karatsev returns a shot during the men's singles final match of the Kremlin Cup tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, on October 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Aslan Karatsev returns a shot during the men's singles final match of the Kremlin Cup tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, on October 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

SYDNEY — Aslan Karatsev, the 20th ranked tennis player in the world,  produced a masterclass Saturday to power past Andy Murray in the Sydney Classic final, signaling his intent of making another deep run at the Australian Open.

The No.1 seed in the tournament won 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 31 minutes, hitting 29 winners in a near-flawless performance that left the three-time Grand Slam champion out of answers.

“Thanks to my team we are doing an amazing job,” Karatsev said during the awards presentation.

Karatsev created history at last year’s Australian Open after becoming the first Grand Slam debutant to reach a semi-final since the Open era began in 1968.

Karatsev plays for the Russian national side but grew up and trained in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew.

After his emphatic victory, the 28-year-old will be confident entering Melbourne Park having stymied Murray’s bid to win a title for the first time since 2019.

“First time back in a final for three years, it’s been a long road,” an emotional Murray said at the presentation.

Andy Murray of Britain in a practice session on John Cain Arena at Summer Set tennis tournament ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, on January 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Murray, who has been given a wildcard into next week’s Australian Open, had been encouraged by his play heading into a Grand Slam where he has finished as runner-up five times.

But Murray, who had undergone career-saving hip surgery, was blown off the court by the red-hot Russian-Israeli player.

His serve was under immediate pressure as Karatsev muscled him around the court to gain the break in the opening game.

Karatsev continued to stand and deliver, piercing the lines to run Murray ragged.

A double fault from the Scot handed Karatsev the first set and the Russian then stormed to a 3-0 lead.

Murray showed trademark fight and had opportunities to break in an epic fifth game, but Karatsev held on and then motored to victory.

Karatsev, who had knocked out Murray’s British compatriot Dan Evans in a three-set semi-final thriller on Friday, plays world number 72 Jaume Munar of Spain in the first round of the Australian Open.

Murray has an intriguing opener against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who he beat in three sets in the round of 16 in Sydney.

Karatsev was born in Vladikavkaz, Russia, but moved to Israel when he was three years old, and started to play there.

“I grew up there, practicing there until 12 years old, and then I moved back to Russia with my father. Then I was living in Rostov… I was practicing there until 18 years old, then I started practicing in Moscow,” he said in an interview last year.

Though he showed obvious potential, financial hardships kept Karatsev from advancing his natural talent in Israel and he eventually returned to Russia with his father. His mother and sister remained in Israel.

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