Andy Murray shrugged off early nerves to claim his first title of the year with a straight-sets victory over Fernando Verdasco in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The world number one, a runner-up here in 2012, looked to have left his game in the locker room when he was broken twice at the start of the match, but a strong recovery saw him seal a 6-3 6-2 victory over the Spaniard.
Victory also takes Murray’s head-to-head record against Verdasco to 13-1.
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.
Speaking in his on-court interview televised by Sky Sports 4 after the match, Murray said: “It’s always nice to win any tournament but especially ones you haven’t won before, so obviously I’m very happy to do it here for the first time. It’s been a good start to the year.
“It’s been quite a few late finishes this week and maybe the last couple of matches I didn’t start as well as I would have liked. But it’s been the same for all of the players. It’s been a tricky week with the drizzle and the rain and the matches starting a bit later, but once I got going today I was moving well and I finished strong.”