World number one Andy Murray vowed to return as strong as ever after his bid for a maiden Australian Open title was brought to a stunning end by German Mischa Zverev on Sunday.
Murray has reached the final five times on the blue hardcourts at Melbourne Park and lost every one, four to the man who preceded him as world number one, Novak Djokovic.
With the reigning champion having made an even earlier departure from the tournament in the second round, top seed Murray was considered to have had his best chance to finally bury his Melbourne hoodoo.
The 29-year-old respectfully disagreed.
“Did I miss an opportunity?” he said. “I don’t know. I mean, every year you come is a different chance.
“But you’ve got Roger (Federer) plus three guys that are pretty much in the top 10 in the world in my half of the draw. There’s certainly no guarantees, even if I got through today’s match, that I would have gone further.
“It’s disappointing to lose (but) I don’t feel like this is any more of an opportunity than other years.”
Murray had every right to be confident when he arrived at Melbourne Park as the top seed at a grand slam for the first time after winning 28 of his previous 29 matches.
“I’m obviously down about it,” said the Wimbledon and Olympic champion.
“It’s just tennis. I mean, I had great success for a number of months. Obviously in the biggest events you want to do your best. Obviously that’s not been the case here. You know, it happens.”
Murray first came across Zverev when they were both Juniors and had no reason to think the 50th ranked serve-volley exponent would return to end his run of consecutive Melbourne Park quarter-final appearances at eight.
Although Murray paid full tribute to Zverev’s extraordinary performance there was no escaping that his was the earliest exit from the tournament for a top seed since Lleyton Hewitt in 2003.
“I’ve had tough losses in my career in the past. I’ve come back from them,” said Murray.
“This is a tough one. 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.
“Credit to him. He came up with great, great shots and played a really, really good match. You know, you always finish matches you lose with things you maybe could have done a bit better, but he played some really good stuff.”