Wild card Aslan Karatsev won the first title of his career with  a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of qualifier Lloyd Harris in an empty and eerie Dubai stadium on Saturday.

With fans banned by COVID-19 restrictions, the 76-minute breakthrough trophy for Russia’s surprise Australian Open semi-finalist was played in a ghostly non-ambience.

The final marked the first time a wild card and qualifier played for a title since wild card Fabio Fognini beat Yannick Hanfmann for the 2017 Gstaad title.

The win will move No. 42 Karatsev to a Top 30 ranking for the first time and leaves his South African opponent now winless from two finals (also Adelaide in 2020).

“I’m super-happy,” the winner said for the benefit of television audiences in an on-court interview inside the empty venue. “It was a tight match, I started very nervous.

“But finals are different from any other match of the tournament.”

The new champion ended with 27 winners including eight aces, while Harris was likely feeling the weight of his eighth match in as many days here,

Both finalists achieved personal bests at the Aviation Club, with Karatsev ending the 23-match win streak of compatriot Andrey Rublev with a semi-final defeat and Harris knocking out top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.

Karatsev stands 12-2 in 2021 main draw matches, with his only losses coming to Top 5 players Novak Djokovic in Melbourne and Thiem last week in Doha.

“You never know when your game is going to click, ” Karatsev said. “My team and my coach have done a good job.

“The surface is fast here but I got used to it for the slow court in Doha. I like it fast. It’s been a tough week but I’ll try and recover now for Miami (starting at mid-week).


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