Andy Murray’s hopes of finally getting his hands on the Australian Open title were ended for another year when the top seed and world number one was tied up in knots and flung out of the fourth round by Mischa Zverev on Sunday.
With reigning champion Novak Djokovic having been knocked out in the second round, a grand slam will head into the second week without its top two men’s seeds for the first time since the 2004 French Open.
German Zverev, in the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time after a career ravaged by injury, flummoxed his contemporary with his unorthodox serve-volley game and broke the Wimbledon and Olympic champion eight times over the contest.
The world number 50 was helped by a below-par performance from Murray but thoroughly deserved his 7-5 5-7 6-2 6-4 victory over three and a half hours on Rod Laver Arena, which earned him a quarter-final meeting with Roger Federer or Kei Nishikori.
“He deserved to win because he played great when he was down and also in the important moments,” said Briton Murray.
“(He) kept coming up with great shots, there’s not too much you can do about that. Sometimes you got to say, ‘well played’. It was obviously disappointing to lose. But he did some good stuff out there.”
Murray prides himself on the variety of weapons at his disposal but some, like his lob, deserted him on Sunday, while others were undermined by the lack of pace Zverev offered him to work with.
Zverev served solidly and came up with 52 winners, charging the net 118 times and breaking the world number one five times in the first two sets alone.
“Honestly, I was in a little coma, just serve and volleying my way through,” said Zverev.
“There were some points I don’t know how I won. But somehow I made it.”