Andy Murray narrowly loses Mubadala World Tennis Championship final vs Andrey Rublev

Andy Murray and Ash Barty pay tribute to each other

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Andy Murray was defeated by Andrey Rublev in his first Mubadala World Tennis Championship final since winning the event in 2015. The world No 5 led by a set-and-a-break before Murray started to mount a comeback, but the 24-year-old was able to defeat him in a second-set tiebreak and win his first crown at the Abu Dhabi exhibition 6-4 7-6(2) in an hour and 35 minutes.

Murray and Rublev had faced each other earlier this season at the ATP 500 in Rotterdam, where the world No 5 won their round-of-16 encounter 7-5 6-2 before going on to win the title.

Their only prior meeting came at the Australian Open in 2017 when Murray was world No 1, and Rublev was aged just 19 and ranked down at world No 152, with the Brit comfortably winning 6-3 6-0 6-2.

The current world No 134 had already defeated world No 25 and compatriot Dan Evans in Thursday’s (December 16) knockout match 6-3 6-2, and beat Rafael Nadal in the Spaniard’s first match of his injury comeback 6-3 7-5 to book his place in the final.

He had one extra match over Rublev, who had a bye straight to the semi-final thanks to his top five ranking, and defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 in a thrinning two hour and 20 minute encounter.

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The early stages of the final saw Murray stay level with his much higher-ranked opponent, but Rublev proved that he was the more in-form player when he took hold and broke the 34-year-old’s serve in a lengthy game to take a 4-2 lead.

The Russian held onto his lead and took the opener 6-4, carrying his momentum into the second set and breaking Murray in the first game to immediately take a lead.

The one-break lead wasn’t enough though, as Murray managed to break back and get things level at 4-4 following a disastrous game for the 24-year-old who hit three double faults.

Rublev showed his frustrations as the world No 134 then held to take a 5-4 lead, having previously been 2-4 down.

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He came back from 15-30 down on his service game to keep himself in the second set after previously leading, and held on to force a tiebreak as his level started to drop.

However, Murray was unable to keep his momentum going into the tiebreak and dropped the first four points in a row, with Rublev winning the tiebreak and the match 6-4 7-6(2).

It means the Russian wins his first crown at the Abu Dhabi championship, and will head to Australia for the season-opening Grand Slam full of confidence.

The former world No 1 had been excited to take on Rublev and test his level against the 24-year-old.

Following his semi-final victory over Nadal, he said: “Another chance to play against another top player for me. Rublev had a fantastic season last year and he hits a huge ball from the back of the court so certainly will test my movement out but looking forward to playing in front of this crowd again.”

While he was unable to defeat the world No 5, Murray still enjoyed a successful day on serve, at one point hitting eight aces over just three service games.

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship marked Murray’s first tournament since parting ways with Jamie Delgado, his coach of five-and-a-half years.

The 34-year-old is currently undergoing a trial period with Jan de Witt, the German who formerly mentored the likes of Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils.

Meanwhile, Delgado was also in Abu Dhabi with his new player, world No 14 Denis Shapovalov who defeated Nadal in Saturday’s (December 18) earlier third-place play-off match.

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