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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday March 20, 2021

Aslan Karatsev

Aslan Karatsev defeated Lloyd Harris to become the first wild card champion in Dubai since 1997.

Aslan Karatsev’s wild ride continues in 2021. The 27-year-old Russian claimed his maiden ATP title and became the first wild card to triumph at the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Saturday, defeating South Africa’s Lloyd Harris 6-3, 6-2.

Tennis Express

It was yet another dominant performance from Karatsev, who broke serve three times and saved the only two break points he faced in the 75 minute contest. The Russian won 30 of 36 first serve points and took advantage of Harris’ second serve, winning 10 of 12 points against it.

"Of course I am super happy to win this kind of tournament, especially ATP 500, especially here in Dubai," Karatsev said in his post-match press conference. "Of course with the big names like that you always feel proud of yourself and with your performance. I am really happy with the game that I did this week."

Karatsev, who began the season at 112 in the world, will rise inside the Top 30 to a projected career-high ranking of 27 thanks to his efforts. Harris, who was also bidding for his first ATP title, will rise to a career-high ranking of 52, from 81.

The South African is the first qualifier to play the final in the history of the ATP Dubai event.

“It was a fantastic week,” said Harris. “I came through seven matches. I don’t recall ever playing eight matches in the same week, so it was a little bit mentally and physically demanding, but Aslan was too good today … I think he’s the man of the hour.”

Karatsev broke serve in his opening return game and made it stand up.

In the second set he broke in the first game and then added the insurance break for 5-2 when a Harris forehand clipped the net.

“He’s playing super aggressive on the baseline, he is literally going for corners on most balls and not missing much," Harris said of Karatsev. "I thought he was even returning deep inside the court, he was serving well, it was a lot of difficult points for me, I struggled to string some points together and just when I thought I’m getting into his game, was getting those 30-alls, those break points, he played even better on those occasions. I wasn’t as clinical as I was throughout the week, but he made it much harder than most players did.”

The victory caps a rapid rise to the Top 30 for Karatsev. He entered the season with a 3-10 ATP tour-level record. His record thus far in 2021? 12-2.


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