Andy Murray’s bid for a first ATP title since October 2019 ended in a straight-set defeat by Russian top seed Aslan Karatsev in the Sydney Classic final.
The Briton, whose last win in Antwerp came nine months after hip surgery, lost 6-3 6-3 to the world number 20.
Murray was broken in the opening game and struggled on first serve in a set where he was outpowered by Karatsev.
Murray lost his first service game in the second set and the single break was enough for Karatsev to secure victory.
Five break opportunities were created by Murray in the fifth game of the second set, but Karatsev saved them all and regained his rhythm to close in on the title.
Left to serve out for victory, 28-year-old Karatsev wobbled as Murray saved two championship points before the Russian – a surprise Australian Open semi-finalist in 2021 – secured the third ATP title of his career.
While Murray will be despondent at the defeat, the world number 135 will reflect positively on the week as a whole.
Generally, the three-time Grand Slam champion moved well around the court and his serving, before the final against Karatsev at least, was particularly strong.
Now the 34-year-old Scot will head to Melbourne, where the Australian Open starts on Monday.
Murray, a five-time finalist at the opening Grand Slam of the season, will play Georgian 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round on Tuesday.