The Scot had his best week since claiming his 46th career title in Antwerp in October 2019, but he was caught off guard by Karatsev’s blistering power.
The leading group knocked out winners from all over the field to take a 6-3 6-3 victory for its third title on the ATP Tour.
Karatsev was one of the most surprising semi-finalists in history when he reached the final four in Melbourne as an unannounced qualifier 12 months ago.
But the 28-year-old, who had previously spent his entire career on the lower rungs of the tennis circuit, has since proven that he belongs at the top of the sport, breaking into the top 20 and winning titles in Dubai last year. and Moscow.
He defeated Dan Evans in the semi-final in Sydney to avoid a first-ever all-British ATP Tour final and broke the Murray service in the first game.
The Scot paid for a low first-serve percentage in the opening set, but Karatsev was great, claiming half of his points from winners and making just four unforced errors.
Murray also quickly fell behind in the second set and five missed breakpoints in the fifth game proved to be his only chance of getting back into the game.
Defeat means the 34-year-old will also have to wait to get back into the top 100, but he can confidently head to Melbourne on Tuesday for the Australian Open and a rematch with Nikoloz Basilashvili – whom he defeated in the second round this week – on Tuesday .
There was a title in Adelaide for Britain’s Neal Skupski, who claimed back-to-back pieces of silverware with new Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof.
The men’s singles title went to Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years and roared with joy as he claimed his first main tour title in his home city, beating France’s Arthur Rinderknech 6-7 (6) 7-6 (5) 6-3.
Madison Keys won her first silverware since 2019, beating Alison Riske 6-1 6-2 in the women’s event, while Karatsev’s win was preceded by an impressive 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) win for Spain’s Paula Badosa on French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Both will cherish their chances of success at the Australian Open.
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