Murray ousted by Zverev Snr
Originally published on 22/01/17 00:00
Andy Murray’s first Grand Slam tournament as the No 1 seed ended in bitter disappointment at the Australian Open when he suffered a stunning fourth-round defeat at the hands of Mischa Zverev. The 29-year-old German, who is not even the best player in his own family, is ranked No 50 in the world and had won just one match in his five previous appearances in the main draw in Melbourne.
Zverev, whose younger brother Alexander is one of the most exciting young talents in the men’s game, beat Murray 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to end the Scot’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the year’s opening Grand Slam event for the eighth year in succession.
After Novak Djokovic’s remarkable loss to Denis Istomin in the previous round Murray had been the clear favourite to win the title for the first time, but this defeat was almost as big a shock as that of his great rival. Murray had not lost to an opponent ranked as low as Zverev in Grand Slam competition since he was beaten by Juan Ignacio Chela at Melbourne Park 11 years ago.
Zverev, who has spent most of his career on the Challenger circuit, has been in improved form in recent months, but few had expected the 29-year-old left-hander to trouble Murray, whose only loss in his previous 32 matches had been against Djokovic in the Qatar Open final in the first week of the new year.
Playing serve-and-volley and charging into the net at every opportunity, Zverev hurried Murray into his shots. The German volleyed superbly, repeatedly cutting off Murray’s attempts at passing shots and smashing winners off his lobs.
Murray’s problems started when he served at 3-1 and 40-0 in the opening set. Zverev broke back to win that game and after dropping his serve again broke twice more before serving out for the set.
When Murray levelled the match by taking the second set it seemed that his crisis might be over, but the Scot played a poor third set and dropped his serve in the opening game of the fourth. Zverev went 15-30 down when he eventually served for the match but got back on track with a brilliant stop volley and then closed out victory courtesy of two more Murray errors.
“It just wasn’t meant to be,” Murray said afterwards. “He served very well when he needed to, especially when he was behind in games. He deserved to win because he played great when he was down and also in the important moments.
“I was behind in the last couple of sets the whole way. But in the first two sets I had chances. I was up a break I think in both of them pretty early, but I couldn’t convert my opportunities.”
Zverev, who described it as the best match of his life, said: “I believed in myself. I believed in my game. I believed that playing serve-and-volley against him and slicing a lot, trying to destroy his rhythm, was going to work, which it did in the end.”
Dan Evans, the only other Briton left in the men’s singles, followed Murray out of the tournament when he was beaten 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Evans, who reached his first tour final earlier this month and was playing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the first time, said: “He was just a bit too strong for me. I played pretty well. I was pretty sore. He was so physical today. To win the first set took too much out of me. I got broken in a long game at the start of the second set and it was uphill from there.”