MELBOURNE (AFP) – World number one Andy Murray found his stunning defeat hard to swallow after 50th-ranked Mischa Zverev extended his Australian Open agony in the fourth round on Sunday.
Murray, who has lost five finals in Melbourne, again left without the trophy after he fell to the inspired Zverev 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in a three-hour, 34-minute classic.
This time, Murray departs in week one after failing to capitalise on the second-round defeat of six-time champion Novak Djokovic, so often his nemesis at the tournament.
“I’ve had tough losses in my career in the past. I’ve come back from them. This is a tough one,” Murray said.
“I’m sure I’ll come back okay from it. But right now I’m obviously very down because I wanted to go further in this event, and it wasn’t to be.”
Murray looked set to break his Melbourne Grand Slam jinx when his arch-rival Djokovic, who has beaten him in four Australian finals, was dumped out by Denis Istomin.
The British top seed refused to concede that it was a big opportunity lost after he was ambushed by serve-and-volley specialist Zverev, a former rival from their junior days.
“Did I miss an opportunity? I don’t know. I mean, every year you come is a different chance, different opportunity,” Murray said.
“I mean, still even had I got through this match, (Kei) Nishikori or Roger (Federer) are waiting. Stan’s (Wawrinka) still in.
“There’s certainly no guarantees, even if I got through today’s match, that I would have gone further.”
‘Wasn’t meant to be’
Murray was coming off a magnificent 2016 which included a second Wimbledon crown, a successful Olympic title defence and replacing Djokovic to become world number one for the first time.
“I’m obviously down about it. It’s just tennis. I had great success for a number of months,” he said.
“Obviously in the biggest events you want to do your best. That’s not been the case here. You know, it happens.”
Murray paid credit to Zverev’s inspired tennis in only their second meeting. The previous time, in Munich two years ago, the Scot cleaned up 6-2, 6-2.
“It just wasn’t meant to be. He served very well when he needed to, especially when he was behind in games,” Murray said.
“Yeah, he deserved to win because he played great when he was down, and also in the important moments.”
Murray couldn’t find a solution to left-hander Zverev relentlessly coming into the net behind his serve, and many times resorted to the lob to get points.
The British top seed’s serve was broken eight times and he made 66 forced errors, testament to the constant pressure put on him by Zverev, who came to the net 118 times.
“I don’t think it’s so much someone necessarily coming in,” Murray said. “It’s the shots he was coming up with when he did come forward.
“I mean, he came up with some great pick-ups, reflex volleys especially at the end of the match when it was tight.”
Murray had not lost before the quarter-finals at the Australian Open since going out to Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in five sets in 2009.
Murray had also not lost to a player ranked as low as the German in Melbourne since he fell to number 51 Juan Ignacio Chela in 2006.