Tennis fans never got the Roger Federer/Andy Murray semifinal that they may have been hoping for when the draw for the 2017 Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai was first released. However, Andy Murray didn’t disappoint his fans as he claimed the 500-series title this weekend, defeating Fernando Verdasco in the final 6-3, 6-2. The title is the first of Murray’s season, it’s the 45th overall in his distinguished career, and it will help atone for a poor showing at the 2017 Australian Open.
The Scot has done well at the 500-level of late. Besides his title in Dubai, Murray has won each of London/Queen’s Club, Beijing, and Vienna in his last four outings. Each of those tournaments carried a prize of 500 ranking points, thereby accounting for 2000 of Murray’s current total. With World No. 2 Novak Djokovic losing in the Acapulco quarterfinals, it truly was a productive week for Murray when it comes to protecting his spot on the top of the men’s game. His lead over the Serb will be more than 2000 points when the rankings update on Monday.
“It’s nice to win, and I played much better as the match went on. I started a little bit slow, but I was solid. I wasn’t afraid to attack his forehand side. He’s got one of the best forehands, but I tried to move him around the court as much as I could,” Murray claimed of Verdasco.
“I defended pretty well and moved well. I served a lot better as the match went on. It was obviously good to win the first tournament here.”
Verdasco will be disappointed for not making the final at least more competitive. The Spaniard, at the age of 33, has had a decent start to the season, though. He almost beat Djokovic back in Doha and his run in Dubai over the last several days will send him back into the Top 30 on tour. However, Verdasco has never been the best tournament closer. The former top-ten player’s title total will remain at seven, and he has just one title since Houston 2014. He will decline to 7-15 in championship matches on tour.
“I think that obviously, I had, if not the toughest opponent I can have in the final, then one of them, for sure. He’s No. 1 in the world right now. It was obviously a really difficult final to win, but I came trying everything and giving everything,” the Spaniard claimed.
“I said that yesterday that being in the final of a 500 after five years is a great week for me and I have to take the positive things.”
Indian Wells will be the next target for each of these two players, a tournament that starts on March 9th from California. A lengthy event, the title match for the 1000 series event won’t take place until March 19th. Miami will follow before the clay-court events dominate the tour. Verdasco may prove to be a tougher player on that surface as most of his titles have come on the dirt over the years. Murray, in contrast, has very few clay-court titles however he did break through to the Roland Garros final in 2017.