Karatsev joins elite club of Dubai champions

Aslan Karatsev plays a shot against Lloyd Harris. — Twitter
Aslan Karatsev plays a shot against Lloyd Harris. — Twitter

Dubai - Harris could not cope with the relentless aggression from the Russian


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 20 Mar 2021, 10:31 PM

Last updated: Sat 20 Mar 2021, 10:44 PM

In a rare shootout for an ATP silverware between a wildcard and a qualifier, Russian Aslan Karatsev displayed the traits of a sniper, dismantling Lloyd Harris with cold-blooded precision and brutally ending the South African’s fairytale run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Karatsev, who made history by becoming the first player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam semifinal on debut, having come through the qualifying rounds for this year’s Australian Open, beat Harris 6-3 6-2 in the Dubai final on Saturday for his first ATP title.

With the emphatic victory, the 27-year-old Russian became the third wildcard after Thomas Muster (1997) and Wayne Ferreira (1995) to win the Dubai title.

Having ended compatriot Andrey Rublev’s 23-match winning streak at the ATP 500 level in the semifinals on Friday, Karatsev proved too strong for Harris on Saturday, using his combination of deadly serve and ferocious groundstrokes.

Harris, the 24-year-old qualifier who stunned top seed and US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the second round, could not cope with the relentless aggression from the Russian, losing his serve in the opening games of both sets.

Another break of serve in the seventh game of the second set allowed Karatsev to go for the kill in the next game and the Russian reached the finish line by holding to love with a brilliant volley.

“Every match is different and I am happy to win this one today,” said Karatsev after joining the pantheon of Dubai champions that includes names like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

The world number 42 credited his team for his stunning start to the new season.

“I have done a good job with my team, my coach, and the results have happened now,” said Karatsev who won eight matches at the Australian Open, including three in the qualifying rounds.

“Everybody is really happy (with the recent results). My friends, my family, the people around me. They have always been supporting me. And it was a tough week here (in Dubai),” added the Russian whose biggest career win came in the Dubai semifinal over Rublev in a hard-fought three-setter.

The semifinal win over Rublev was Karatsev’s third straight three-set win in Dubai, having gone the distance in his wins over rising Italian Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals and 12th seed Dan Evans of Britain in the round of 32.

But the final was a straightforward affair for Karatsev against Harris who seemed to have run out of gas after playing seven matches in seven days at the Dubai event.

Nevertheless, the South African qualifier left the Dubai centre court with a big smile on his face, having beaten big names like Thiem, Denis Shapovalov and Kei Nishikori in the main draw.

“It was a fantastic week for me. I can’t recall playing eight matches in a week. It was little bit mentally, physically demanding. But Aslan was just too good today. So, congratulations on your first title, Aslan. I think he is the man of the hour. But it was a great event for me,” said Harris.

Earlier, top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia ended their drought by claiming their first doubles title since the 2019 US Open with a hard-fought 7-6 (7/0) 7-6 (7/4) win over second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia in the final.

“It feels great… We have been playing good this year,” said Farah. “We struggled a little bit in Australia and got the level back to where we needed to be to win this title. We are very happy for that.”

The Colombians ended their title drought, beating a Croatian pair that had won four titles this season with their victories coming at the Antalya Open, the Murray River Open and the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.

“Those guys are dragging so much confidence with them after winning that many tournaments and winning that many matches,” said Farah.

“Clearly they have been playing really well and we just wanted to go out there, enjoy, play our game and bring the energy.”

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