DUBAI // This is definitely not in the same league as their agonisingly long wait for another grand slam or Wimbledon champion, but still, Britain can finally celebrate their first Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner.
Bidding to become the first British champion in the 25-year history of the tournament, Andy Murray ended the wait on Saturday night with a commanding 6-3, 6-2 win over Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. The Scot could have done it in 2012, but lost to a resurgent Roger Federer in the final.
“It’s always nice to win any tournament, but especially ones you haven’t won before,” said Murray, who won 11 of the last 13 games as he cantered to his first title of 2017. “So obviously very happy to do it here for the first time.”
Murray could have still been waiting for his first title of 2017 as he left Dubai for Indian Wells, if not for a sensational escape in the quarter-final against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The world No 1 saved seven match points in the epic 38-point second set tiebreak, which lasted 31 minutes, against the German and Murray believes winning that match put him on course for the title.
“It was an amazing tiebreak,” the champion said. “It could have gone either way. He was playing great, great tennis and pushed me unbelievably hard. Often, when you get through matches like that, it settles you down for the rest of the tournament and I played a good match today.”
After his slow start against Kohlschreiber and Lucas Pouille in the semi-final, Murray was hoping to make a good start against Verdasco.
That, however, did not happen. Murray, playing his 14th final in his last 16 tournaments, dropped his first two service games, but with Verdasco struggling to hold his own serves, he turned it around, winning five games on the trot from 1-3 to wrap up the first set.
The second set, of course, was a lot simpler affair and Murray raced to the finish.
“Once I got going today, I was moving well and finished strong,” said Murray, who will now take a 16-hour flight to Los Angeles for the Indian Wells Masters, which starts on Thursday.
“It’s nice that it’s a direct flight, but it’s obviously a long trip, so it will take a few days to get over that,” Murray, 29, said. “I struggled in Indian Wells and Miami [lost third round in both] last year — didn’t play so well. So this week has given me great momentum going into that stretch and hopefully I can play well there.
“Conditions are totally different. Indian Wells, it’s a very slow court with fast balls and the other way around here, fast court with quite slow balls. So I have to get there and adjust to that.
“I’m trying to get to Indian Wells much earlier than I did last year. I will arrive tomorrow [Sunday], which is a good thing. Even though it’s a long trip, it gives me five, six days to get ready before my first match.”
In the doubles final, the Dutch-Romanian pair of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, the 2015 Wimbledon champions, rallied to defeat Rohan Bopanna and Marcin Matkowski 4-6, 6-3, 10-3 for their 13th title together.
“It was tough to get to our 13th title,” Tecau said. “We didn’t get one since Madrid last year, and we are always chasing to get better, and by getting better, winning some titles.
“So it feels good to have a good week, get our game back on track, and now this gives us confidence for the rest of the season.”
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