Andy Murray lost 6-3, 6-3 to Russian Aslan Karatsev in Sydney Tennis Classic final ahead of Australian Open.
The former world number one, playing in his first ATP final since 2019, was no match for the power of Karatsev who saw off fellow Brit Dan Evans in the semi-finals.
Karatsev built his victory off the back of thumping winners from the back of the court that Murray had little answer for, with the Brit appearing jaded after a physically draining battle against Reilly Opelka in the semi-finals.
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The Russian broke Murray's serve in the first game and made only four unforced errors in the match as Murray's first-serve percentage waned.
After serving out the first set, Karatsev broke Murray again at the beginning of the second.
The Scot almost broke back in the fifth game of the second set, but threw away two break points as Karatsev held on.
Murray, who has enjoyed his best week of tennis in years, will be buoyed by his run to the final ahead of a wildcard appearance at the Australian Open.
And he was full of praise for the fans in Sydney, his opponent, his family back home and the team that has helped him to reach another final.
"I'd like to congratulate Aslan on a fantastic week," he said after the defeat. "I know he arrived here late in Australia after Covid, it's impressive to come back and play at that level. All the best for the Aussie Open."
"I'd like to thank my team for all their help this year. First time in a final for three years - it's been a long road but I couldn't have done it without all your help. I'd also like to thank my family back home, I miss you all. I'd also like to say thank you to those putting on the event, you did a fantastic event, it's not easy in these times - I really enjoyed it.
Finally to all of you who came out to support tonight, what an amazing atmosphere to play in, it was so good! I've really missed playing in front of these crowds, unfortunately the result didn't go my way but I'll do my best to come back and play in these sorts of matches."
Murray begins his tournament against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday and has a chance to break back into the top 100 in the world with a good run in Melbourne.
Karatsev, an unexpected semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, now has three ATP titles to his name.
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