It was not pretty at times, but Andy Murray overcame a rough start to defeat Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2 in the final to become the first Brit to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday night.
The world No1 needed just 73 minutes to dismiss his Spanish opponent, who had given Murray trouble in the past but was nowhere near his best on Saturday.
Playing his seventh final in his last eight tournaments, Murray dropped just five points on his first serve and only eight on his second, against an error-prone Verdasco, who was contesting his biggest final since his runner-up finish in Acapulco in 2012.
“I played much better as the match went on. Obviously started a little bit slow,” said Murray after his win, that coincided with the tournament’s 25th anniversary.
“I was solid. I wasn’t afraid to sort of 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.
“I defended pretty well, moved well, served a lot better as the match went on. It was obviously good to win the first tournament here.”
Murray had dropped serve just four times throughout the week heading into the final but he found himself down two break points in his opening service game against Verdasco. The top seed saved the first but netted a backhand to get broken.
The reaction was quick from the Scot who immediately went up 0-40 on the Verdasco serve and he drew level on a wild long forehand from the Spaniard.
Neither player seemed comfortable on serve and a Murray double fault gifted Verdasco two chances to break. All he needed was one and Verdasco was up a break again thanks to a wide drive forehand from his opponent.
Verdasco finally halted the break-fest as he slammed down just his sixth ace of the entire tournament to hold for 3-1.
Murray claimed his first service hold of the contest in game five then broke at love and cosolidated for 4-3.
Verdasco got into trouble in game eight, facing a break point after a string of errors and sent a forehand wide to get broken.
Murray got his hands on triple set point and converted on his first opportunity with a service winner to wrap up a 38-minute opening set.
The Brit sprinted to a drop shot and responded with interest to get two break points and broke for a 2-1 lead in the second with a routine forehand passing shot winner.
Verdasco almost checked out of the match as Murray held at love for 3-1.
Murray got a break point in the seventh game on a netted volley from Verdasco, who saved it with a 212km/hr ace, sending the crowd into mayhem.
“Relax!” the umpire told the crowd but it took them a while to settle down.
Murray broke two points later to put himself in the position to serve for the championship and the 29-year-old secured the title on a service winner.
“I think that obviously I had, if not the toughest opponent I can have in the final, one of them, for sure. He’s No1 in the world right now,” said a disappointed Verdasco, who is expected to re-enter the world’s top 30 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“It was obviously a really difficult final to win, but I came trying everything and giving everything.”
Murray says he capitalised on the 33-year-old’s errors.
“He didn’t hit his forehand particularly well, you know, so I just kept going there, really. He made a lot of mistakes off that side,” said the Scot.
The win gave Murray his 45th career title and first in 2017. He is the fourth player this season to capture a trophy after saving a match point en route.
Murray had saved seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarter-finals.