- A wild card meets a qualifier in the Dubai Duty Free final at 11:00 am EST Saturday morning
- Aslan Karatsev and Lloyd Harris have never played each other
- Karatsev is the favorite; we break down his chances of having an easy day below
Whatever the male equivalent of a Cinderella story is, it will come true regardless of whether wild card Aslan Karatsev or qualifier Lloyd Harris emerges triumphant in Saturday’s Dubai final.
It would be the first career ATP Tour title for either of them.
But Karatsev is the favorite for a number of reasons.
Lloyd Harris vs Aslan Karatsev Odds
|Player||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
|[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA)||+2.5 (-107)||+160||O 22.5 (-124)|
|[WC] Aslan Karatsev (RUS)||-2.5 (-127)||-220||U 22.5 (-110)|
Odds taken March 19
Odds at +5000 Before the Tournament
If you had a feeling about the Russian Karatsev – the story in men’s tennis in 2021 – before the tournament and took the plunge at +5000, you might really be looking forward to Saturday.
If you had a sixth sense about the South African Lloyd Harris, who had to go through the qualifying, pat yourself on the back.
Harris Has Help to Reach Final
Harris, a tall 24-year-old who was 3-5 on the season coming in, was almost out of the tournament before he began.
He had to go all the way to 12-10 in the third-set tiebreaker to get through his first match in qualifying against Blaz Rola of Slovenia.
But once he was in the main draw, he earned it.
Harris beat desultory top seed Dominic Thiem in straight sets, No. 14 seed Filip Krajinovic in straight sets and the resurgent former top-10 player Kei Nishikori in three sets before running into an on-fire Denis Shapovalov in Friday’s semifinal.
Shapovalov played off-the-charts tennis – until 6-2, 4-2. Harris broke him at love, when Shapovalov double faulted, to get back on serve.
And then he broke him again to take the second set – with the help of two more double faults from the Canadian.
Ultimately, he converted his second match point and won it, 8-6 in the third-set tiebreak.
Karatsev Wins a Bruising Battle
The first meeting between Karatsev and his countryman Andrey Rublev in the other semifinal was so tense, you could feel it through whatever device you might have been watching on.
The wild card got off to an imperious start. But when the finish line was in sight, he became mortal for seemingly the first time all week.
At 4-5, serving to stay in the second set, he double faulted twice and Rublev broke him, and sent it to a decider.
But in the end he did serve it out in the third set, after saving two break points in the final game.
Lloyd Harris vs Aslan Karatsev Head-to-Head
|24 (Feb. 24, 1997)||Age||27 (Sept. 4, 1993)|
|Cape Town, South Africa||Birthplace||Vladikavkaz, Russia|
|0||Career ATP Singles Titles||0|
|No. 72 (Jan. 20, 2020)||Career High Ranking||No. 42 (Feb. 22, 2021)|
|No. 81||Current Ranking||No. 42|
|$1,388,676||Career Prize Money||$1,159,509|
|8-4||2021 Won/Loss record||11-2|
A Lot of Tennis for Harris
With seven matches under his belt this week, Harris comes into the final a lot more physically compromised.
In fact, during the match against Shapovalov, he pulled something in the abductor area and needed a medical time out.
Later, he ascribed it to fatigue, and said it felt better as the muscle warmed up. He later shed the wrapping and while he seemed a bit hampered, he still got through.
He won’t be any less physically exhausted Saturday against Karatsev, who will make him run side to side relentlessly.
Karatsev a Winners Machine
Against a player who generally hits a ton of winners of his own, Karatsev hit 41 winners (and made 38 unforced errors, many of them in the latter half of the match) Friday against Rublev.
Rublev had 21 winners and only 11 unforced errors. The match was simply taken out of his hands.
Harris hits the ball very hard. But not as hard as Rublev does. And Karatsev was able to handle Rublev.
It feels like destiny that the Russian cap off his blistering start to the season with a big title.
It also feels very 2021 that a wild card entry wins a 500-level tournament.
And, unlike the semifinal, Karatsev won’t feel as though he’s having to overreach to upset a top-10 player. That might take the pressure off.
It’s even possible he could be efficient enough to make the under 20.5 games prop a good value at +170.
Best Bet: Karatsev in two sets (+128)