Murray* 3-6, 0-2 Karatsev (*denotes server)
The way things are going Murray has to win this game, but Karatsev is in complete control in the rallies and gets to 0-15 up with a backhand winner down the line. Murray seems a bit flat and possibly a bit tired are this week’s exertions and he’s getting out-muscled here. Karatsev has two break points and Murray gets in a great first serve to save the first break point. Another big first serve forces the error from the Russian to get it to deuce.
But a great backhand winner down the line gets Karatsev a third break point – sometimes you have to admit there’s little you can do and Murray looks to his coach as if to say ‘what’s happening?’. Murray then spanks a backhand wide and Karatsev has another early break and all the momentum is with the Russian.
Murray 3-6, 0-1 Karatsev* (*denotes server)
Murray has to try and mix things up here and make the Russian rush. He does that by standing up to the Karatsev serve to win a point and make it 15-15. But the Karatsev serve is powerful and heavy and it’s hard to dictate terms off it – the next two Karatsev serves force Murray errors to make it 40-15. There then follows a good rally – with Murray defending well from way behind the baseline – that ends with a forehand smash winner from the Russian.
Murray fans are still cheering
KARATSEV TAKES THE FIRST~ SET 6-3 – Murray* 3-6 Karatsev (*denotes server)
Murray is under pressure at 0-30 down, but a great first serve wide to the Karatsev forehand gets it to 15-30. That’s followed up with an ace – his fourth of the match – levels it at 30-30. BUT that ace is followed up with a double fault and Karatsev has a set point. And the Russian makes no mistake to take the first set in 35 minutes.
Karatsev was simply too strong for Murray in that set. That plus his faulty second serve means the Scot is constantly under pressure.
Murray 3-5 Karatsev* (*denotes server)
Another display of power and precision from Karatsev as he races to a 40-0 lead – again the big forehand to the fore. Another forehand winner means the Russian holds to love.
Karatsev is hitting Murray off the court, he’s already produced 13 winners and now Murray is serving to stay in the set.
Murray looking for Sydney success
Murray* 3-4 Karatsev (*denotes server)
Murray is nothing if not canny and he displays two great touches and nous to get to 30-0. A wayward forehand, however, gets Karatsev into the game at 30-15. But from there Murray makes no mistake winning the next two points moving the Russian around the court and forcing the errors.
Murray 2-4 Karatsev* (*denotes server)
The pair exchange backhands at the baseline before Karatsev again shows off his power with a forehand crosscourt winner. Another BIG (yep it’s deserving of the caps lock) forehand makes it 40-15 and then yet another fine forehand wins him the game.
The Russian has started very well and looks confident. It’s clear Murray will need to find something close to his A-game to win this, going on the first six games.
Murray* 2-3 Karatsev (*denotes server)
A wonderful crosscourt forehand winner from Murray gets the crowd on its feet cheering for the three-time Grand Slam champion. Karatsev is returning well, however, and Murray’s second serve isn’t working at the moment as the Russian attacks Murray’s second serve to get to 30-15. A Murray ace gives him the two-point buffer but again the second serve again lets him down. BUT Murray attacks the net at 40-30 and plays a great forehand winner on the run to secure the game.
Murray 1-3 Karatsev* (*denotes server)
Karatsev powers his first ace of the match to get to 30-15 up, and like the overused cliche about London buses, the second follows the first to get to 40-15. Another powerful serve, which Murray does well to reach, wins him another service game. The Russian is all about power and on the evidence of the first four games it’s not hard to see why.
The crowd is backing Murray
Murray* 1-2 Karatsev (*denotes server)
Karatsev is too lazy and cute the first point of the game as he slaps a volley into the net when hitting a winner would have been so much easier. Murray then wins two quick points, the second of which is his first ace, to get to 40-0 and a long Karatsev forehand means the Scot wins his first game to love.
Murray 0-2 Karatsev* (*denotes server)
Karatsev takes the ball early and another powerful forehand winner gets him to 30-0 up. That’s soon 40-0 thanks to a long Murray forehand. And in double-quick time Murray finds himself 2-0 down.
Murray* 0-1 Karatsev (*denotes server)
It’s Murray to serve first and he’s put off by a strange noise (not sure if it’s inside or outside the stadium…). Once he gets under way Karatsev shows great touch with a drop-shot winner to go 0-15 up. Murray then double faults and the Russian has the early advantage at 0-30.
Karatsev is known for his power and he hits a blistering forehand winner off Murray’s first serve to bring up two break points. Murray saves the first by virtue of a long Karatsev backhand and then saves the second thanks to a wayward Karatsev forehand. But a more pin-point forehand from the Russian gives him a third break point and he makes no mistake this time to get the early break.
Karatsev is all about power and he muscled Murray in that opening game.
The players are out on the court
It seems a lot of the support is for Murray.
Seeing him out there on court in a final in Australia reminds me of that supremely awkward ‘farewell’ the Australian Open did for him back in 2019. It was one level below what can be described as a professional obituary with tributes on the big screen from the great and good of the game. It was really awkward at the time (considering he hadn’t actually retired and, three years later still (obviously!) hasn’t) but even more so now…anyway, the match is about to start.
While you were sleeping
In Australia Novak Djokovic was again detained after authorities ripped up his visa for a second time and declared the unvaccinated tennis star a threat to the public. Read about it here.
But as that was happening long-time rival Rafa Nadal was giving his two-pennies worth on what an Australian Open would be like without the nine-time champion. Spoiler alert: the Spaniard says the tournament will cope just fine…
READ: Australian Open would be just fine without Novak Djokovic, says Rafael Nadal
Who is Aslan Karatsev?
Is 28 years old and hails from Russia
Currently ranked No.20 in the ATP world rankings
Has been as high as 15th
Has two ATP titles to his name, both won last year in Dubai and Moscow
Putting in the hard yards
Andy Murray hoping for ‘amazing’ start to the year
While the focus of the tennis world was set on the travails of Novak Djokovic former world No.1 Andy Murray fought back from a set down to beat American fourth seed Reilly Opelka 6-7(6) 6-4 6-4 and book a spot in his first final since winning in Antwerp in 2019.
After a close first set which went to a tiebreaker, Murray broke early in the second set and rode on his lead to claim the set 6-4.
Murray carried his momentum into the deciding set, breaking Opelka’s serve again to take a 5-4 lead before securing victory with a composed love hold to set up a showdown with top-seeded Aslan Karatsev, who prevailed 6-3 7-6(13) 6-3 over Dan Evans.
“I lost a tight first set and it’s not easy to come back against someone who serves like that, but I kept working and taking opportunities,” said Murray, who could lift his 47th title on the ATP tour with a win in the final on Saturday.
“Returning has always been a strong part of my game, and I used it well [against Opelka].
“It would be amazing to start the year with a trophy, but it’s already been a big week for me, to string four results together like this is much more than I managed last year.”
It wasn’t to be an all-British final as Karatsev battled to a 6-3 7-6(13) 6-3 win over British third seed Evans in a gruelling match that lasted over three hours.
The Russian won the opening set comfortably and Evans rallied back to save three match points in a lengthy tiebreaker to force the decider.
Evans, furious that his opponent was able to take a five-minute break to change his clothes before the third set, fell behind 3-0 before breaking back to level, but Karatsev secured a break to go 5-3 up and seal victory with his fourth match point.
“It was a tough match especially against Evans who does not give free points at all,” Karatsev said.
“In the second he moved better and didn’t make much mistakes, my level dropped down a bit. I found the energy for the third set and am happy to win the match.”