Murray was looking to claim his first ATP main tour title since winning the European Open in Antwerp back in October 2019, but he was comprehensively outplayed by the Russian, who prevailed 6-3 6-3 in just over 90 minutes.
Hopes had been high that Murray, on the back of impressive victories against Nikoloz Basilashvili and Reilly Opelka earlier in the tournament, would be able to get his hands on the trophy. There was a strong Scottish contingent in the crowd to back Murray, with plenty of saltires, Scotland shirts and even a couple of Hibs strips on show, but it was clear early on that Karatsev was in the zone, with the 28-year-old from Vladikavkaz hitting a string of winners from both forehand and backhand wing.
Karatsev made his breakthrough last year at the Australian Open, going from the qualifiers all the way to the last four, where Novak Djokovic defeated him. The Russian clearly likes conditions in Australia and brought his A-game to the table against Murray.
The 34-year-old Scot will be disappointed not to have landed a serious blow in the final, dropping his serve in the opening game and then being broken for the set by double fautling.
Karatsev broke once again at the beginning of the second set to gain an important advantage and while Murray tried to claw his way back into the match, forcing five break points in the fifth game, the world No 135 was unable to take any of them as his opponent held firm.
That was the turning point in the set, with Karatsev – ranked No 20 – able to regroup and close out the match.
Ultimately Murray had very few answers to Karatsev’s crisp, powerful shots, with the Russian’s attacking brand of tennis punching holes through his defences. However, Murray can be pleased with his run in Sydney following last week’s disappointing first-round exit at the Melbourne Summer Series to Facundo Bagnis.
"I’d like to congratulate Aslan for a fantastic week,” Murray said in his on-court interview after the trophy presentation. “He arrived late here because of Covid so his performance was even more impressive.
"It’s been a long road to get back here, so I’d like to thank my team for all their help – I wouldn’t have got here without you.”
Murray then started to well up as he finished with: "I’d like to thank my family back home. I don’t know if you are all watching … I miss you all.
"I’ve really missed playing in front of these crowds in these sorts of matches. Thank you and maybe see you next year.”
Murray now travels back to Melbourne for the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, after he was granted a wild card by Tennis Australia. Murray has been drawn to face the hard-hitting Georgian Basilashvili once again in the first round, who is seeded 21st at the tournament, and their match is expected to be played on Tuesday.