Karatsev King In Dubai, Claims Maiden ATP Title

Aslan Karatsev (photo: DDFT)

DUBAI/STARNBERG, March 20, 2021

Aslan Karatsev defeated qualifier South African Lloyd Harris 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday to claim his first ATP Tour title. He is the first Russian to win the prestigious title, after Marat Safin in 2001 and Mikhail Youzhny in 2007 and 2010 both finished as runner-up, and it is the first time since the series started in 2009 that a wild card and a qualifier were meeting in an ATP 500 final.

Karatsev is the first wild card to compete in the Dubai final since Thomas Muster in 1997, and he joins Muster and Wayne Ferreira in 1995 as the third wild card to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title in the tournament’s 29-year history.

Karatsev has not lost this year to anyone outside of the top five, falling to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and to Dominic Thiem in Doha. He was never under any real pressure against Harris as early breaks in each set gave him an invaluable cushion.

A break for 2-0 gave the 27-year-old the perfect start and, after Harris failed to take advantage of a break point back in the next game, Karatsev kept the pressure on, holding three break points to lead 5-1. Harris held off that challenge, but the World No. 42 went on to take the set.

In the second set, Karatsev broke to lead 1-0, held two break points to lead 3-0 and after holding off a break point to hold for 4-2 he broke the Cape Town native again and served out the next game at love to claim victory in just 75 minutes.

“I’m really happy with my performance. I’m really happy with my game at the beginning of the year, to play Australia semi-final, to show a great level,” said Karatsev, who on Friday earned the biggest victory of his career, ending the 23- match ATP 500 win streak of world number eight Andrey Rublev.

“And then after the Australian Open to keep going, practising hard and I arrived here and showed great belief, good game. In the final everyone is more nervous but I tried to keep the (game) plan.”

Harris takes positives from breakthrough week

“There are so many positives to take from this week, coming through seven matches,” said Harris, who had gone in search of his maiden ATP Tour title after booking his place in the main draw through the qualifying rounds.

“Aslan was just too good today, and sometimes it happens like that, but I’m going to take all the big ups from this week, move forward and take it into the next tournament.”

Harris’ performances earlier in the week had included wins over two of the top three seeds – Dominic Thiem of Austria and Denis Shapovalov of Canada – and while he reportedly picked up a thigh niggle in his semifinal on Friday, he was pleased with how his body had held up.

“I’ve been a little fatigued, but I’ve been battling through it,” said the 24-year-old rising South African star, looking ahead to what could be a superb breakthrough season.

“I’ve been feeling good on the court all week.”

Cabal/Farah take doubles title

Earlier in the day, the doubles final featured four of the top five players in the world, with the title going to top seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who defeated second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 7-6(0), 7-6(4). It is their first title since they won the US Open in 2019.

“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.”