If Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev gave jitters to former world No 1 Rafael Nadal’s campaign at the Australian Open on Saturday, his elder brother Mikhail Mischa Zverev derailed world No 1 Andy Murray’s run in the Grand Slam at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Sunday.
Murray chances of winning his maiden Australian Open after being a five-time finalist came crashing down after losing 5-7, 7-5, 2-6, 4-6 to the unseeded German with his younger brother Alexander in attendance. Zverev’s power-packed performance helped him advance to the quarterfinal.
“Right now I’m down,” Murray said after the match. “But I’ve had tough losses before and come back from them.”
Andy Murray’s defeat follows that of reigning champion Novak Djokovic, who fell to Denis Istomin in the second round on Thursday, leaving the men’s draw at the year’s first Grand Slam without its top two seeds at the quarter-final stage.
It was the biggest scalp of Zverev’s career.
“Honestly, I don’t know, it was like I was in a little coma, I just served and volleyed my way through,” Zverev said. “Honestly there were a few points where I don’t know how I pulled it off.”
Murray got the closest look at Zverev’s best match to date, and couldn’t do a lot to counter it.
“It’s the shots he was coming up with when he did come forward.” Murray said. “I mean, he came up with some great pickups, you know, reflex volleys especially at the end when it was tight.
“He served very well when he needed to ... he deserved to win because he played great when he was down, and also in the important moments.”
After going 3-1 up in the first set, Zverev’s back-hand winner and his terrific net play helped him level 3-3. Murray upped his game to win the next two games. But Zverev’s difficult volleys and attacking shots made things difficult for Murray. Zverev showed no signs of nervousness as he went on to clinch the first set 7-5.
Murray started the second set in a commanding position, winning the first three games with relative ease. But just then the German hit back and Murray was once again faltering to get his first serve in. He soon levelled with Murray 4-4. Murray just about managed to get his game right to win the second set to keep his chances alive with a 7-5 win.
As the game progressed, the performances only started to get more exquisite. Zverev’s intelligence was in full display as he mixed the pace of his shots smartly. On one occasion, the German took Murray’s serve on the rise before taking the pace out of a Murray forehand.
Zverev’s clinical display in the third set hardly gave Murray any chance to bounce back as the German won 6-2.
Zverev won the first two games of the fourth set, but Murray again managed to pull back things as the affair started to get noisy and tense. Although Murray serve percentage (68) was better than Zverev (66%) in the fourth set, it wasn’t enough for the Scott.
Murray had issues with his serve throughout the match as he committed six double faults as compared to two from Zverev. While Murray committed 26 unforced errors in the match, Zverev had 21.
Murray and Zverev share a healthy rivalry. Murray beat Zverev en route to the junior boys’ title at the US Open in 2004. On tour, they have met once, in Munich in 2015, where Murray won 6-2, 6-2 before clinching his first clay-court title.