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Andy Murray clinched his first title of 2017 as he recovered from a slow start in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to cruise past Fernando Verdasco in straight sets.
The world No 1, appearing in his first tournament since his shock fourth-round exit at the Australian Open, was broken twice at the start of the match but recovered well and sealed a 6-3 6-2 victory over his Spanish opponent.
Murray, a beaten finalist in Dubai in 2012, had never before won the title in the UAE but his win against Verdasco makes it 45 career titles and propels him further away from Novak Djokovic at the top of the ATP rankings.
Errors littered the opening few games as both players struggled to hold their serve. Two double faults and a forehand into the net from Murray gifted Verdasco an early break, but the Scot hit back immediately by taking the first of three break points when his opponent also found the net with a weak shot.
Murray's serve continued to cause concern in game three, where another double fault presented two more break points to Verdasco. And the Spaniard took advantage when the world number one pushed a forehand wide before overturning a 0-30 deficit in his own service game to go 3-1 up.
The recovery began when Murray finally held serve in game five, although not without a struggle, and the scores were levelled when Murray unleashed a winning cross-court backhand in the next game for another break.
Murray made it three games in a row and then four, hitting back from 0-40 down on the Verdasco serve to open up a 5-3 lead and leave himself serving for the set.
He did so successfully and continued to put Verdasco to the sword in the second set, securing a break of serve in the third game with another unreturnable forehand.
Murray was very much in his stride now, with his service game also on the rise. And although Verdasco managed to claw his way out of trouble to hold his next service game, it seemed only a matter of when, not if, the top seed would seal the win.
The answer came in the seventh game when, despite saving several break points, another unforced error from Verdasco gifted Murray a 5-2 advantage and the chance to serve out for the title.
And Murray quickly wrapped things up, clinching the match with a powerful serve which Verdasco could find no response to.
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