Murray Streaks To First Dubai Title
Andy Murray wasted no time in securing his 45th tour-level crown on Saturday, dominating the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships over Fernando Verdasco.
Murray extended his ruthless run in ATP World Tour 500 events with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in just one hour and 13 minutes. The World No. 1, who claimed his first title of the season, has now lifted trophies in four straight 500-level events entered, posting a 19-0 record.
The Scot improved to an impressive 13-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Verdasco, having won eight straight encounters since a fourth-round defeat at the Australian Open in 2009. Murray takes home $523,330 in prize money and 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
Murray's 500-Level March
|2017||Dubai||Won Title||d. Verdasco
||Vienna||Won Title||d. Tsonga
"It's nice to win and I played much better as the match went on," said Murray. "I started a little bit slow, but I was solid. I wasn't afraid to attack his forehand side. He's got one of the best forehands, but I tried to move him around the court as much as I could.
"I defended pretty well and moved well. I served a lot better as the match went on. It was obviously good to win the first tournament here.
"Maybe today it could have been a bit of nerves. Yesterday I didn't feel particularly nervous, but today, sometimes in a final there is a bit more pressure. You're playing for something and sometimes you want to start a little bit quicker."
With the Scot's victory, Top 10 players have now captured the past 15 editions of the prestigious hard-court event in the Arabian desert. Moreover, the Big Four of Murray, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have accounted for 13 of those titles, making Dubai the sixth event in which each member of the quartet has prevailed (also Wimbledon, US Open, Coupe Rogers, Mutua Madrid Open and Qatar ExxonMobil Open).
Murray, who finished runner-up in 2012 to Roger Federer, came perilously close to not clutching his first Dubai trophy. The top seed was forced to fight off a career-high seven match points in defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber in Thursday's quarter-final. Their 38-point second set tie-break was the longest at the tour-level since such record-keeping began in 1991.
Match Points Saved En Route To Title In 2017
|Victor Estrella Burgos
||2R & F
It was a sluggish start for both players on serve during a crisp evening at the Aviation Club. Verdasco was on the front foot in the early stages, breaking to open the match, but a trio of unforced errors handed the advantage right back to love. It marked Murray's 121st consecutive match in which he has broken his opponent's serve.
Verdasco's approach was evident from the outset: attack, attack, attack. His forehand was firing off his strings and he would restore the lead a game later for 2-1. But a single break lead is never safe against one of the best returners in the world and Murray would respond with aplomb, earning leads in each of Verdasco's first four service games. The top seed would consolidate the break back to love, reeling off nine straight points, and once again dented Verdasco's serve for 5-3 as the Spaniard sent a forehand wide.
Murray would kick his game into cruise control as the match moved into the second set, capturing seven of eight games to put the encounter out of reach. Verdasco miss-hit a drive volley that the World No. 1 punished with a forehand down the line for the decisive break in the third game. The World No. 35 would hammer a 132 mph (212 km/h) ace to deny a break point at 4-2, but it was not enough, as Murray eventually surged to victory on his first match point with a service winner.
Verdasco was bidding for his eighth ATP World Tour title in his 22nd final. The Spaniard earns $256,565 in prize money and 300 Emirates ATP Rankings points, vaulting to a projected No. 28. Despite the loss, he will return to the Top 30 for the first time since April 2015.
"I think that obviously I had, if not the toughest opponent I can have in the final, then one of them, for sure," said Verdasco. "He's No. 1 in the world right now. It was obviously a really difficult final to win, but I came trying everything and giving everything.
"I said that yesterday that being in the final of a 500 after five years is a great week for me and I have to take the positive things. Obviously, forget about that 200 points that I could have won today, because it's already gone. I'm happy that I tried everything, even if the things were not coming my way and I didn't really have my best day. But I tried and I fought. It was just not coming."
Both players will be next heading to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open, the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of the year. Murray is seeking his first title in the California desert.
"The thing is, the conditions are totally different there," Murray added. "Indian Wells is a very slow court with fast balls and the other way around here, fast court with quite slow balls. So, obviously I have to get there and adjust to that. And because winning this week is fantastic, obviously winning matches builds confidence."