Australian Open 2017 – Murray follows Djokovic through the exit
Another seismic shock hit the Australian Open on Sunday. After Novak Djokovic had fallen in the second round to a player ranked outside the top 100 (Denis Istomin) earlier in the week, world No.1 Andy Murray went out in the fourth round to world No.50 Mischa Zverev, who delivered an absolute master class in volleying against the best returner on the circuit, winning 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
Rumours of the death of attacking tennis have been greatly exaggerated this decade, it would appear. Underlining this phenomenon has been the speed of the surface at the Rod Laver Arena at this year’s Australian Open, according to all who have played on it over the past week. And anyone seeking further proof of the virtue of offence should look no further than Mischa Zverev, who strode to the net on every occasion during his fourth-round match and saw off no less a player than the world No.1 and perhaps best parlayer of the passing shot on the ATP tour – Andy Murray.
The Scot was powerless on Sunday in his attempts to counter the genius of the German lefty, who came to the net no fewer than 118 times (winning 65 points in the process – a success rate of 55%). And thus it was that the elder brother of prodigy Alexander Zverev (and their styles could hardly be more contrasting) pulled off the win of his career to date, bringing it home 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. No wonder John McEnroe described him as "my favourite player" after the tie!
Having all but fallen off the ATP charts two years ago due to multiple injuries (including a fractured wrist and a herniated disc), Zverev was set to be crowned comeback player of the year in 2016, only for one Juan Martin del Potro to turn things around in even more spectacular fashion. The German is back to No.50 in the world however, and set to rise higher after pulling off his best result ever, and one that was full of style and panache into the bargain. He took the opener 7-5 despite Murray twice being a break to the good, agonisingly dropped the second by the same score but came back to dominate the third, and then held firm to win it in four. Murray seemed powerless to stop Zverev from devouring his second service and turning the majority of offerings into sparkling volley winners (indeed, the world No.1 managed just 36% of points – 18 out of 50 – on his second service).
It's the first Major where the top two seeds have fallen before the quarter-finals since the French Open in 2004
The crowd at Melbourne Park were very much behind the underdog throughout. "Thanks for all your support," Zverev said after the match. "I kept hearing ‘Come on Mischa’ and it was really nice." Murray meanwhile spoke of his "disappointment. I can’t even remember the last time I lost so early in a Grand Slam". The answer to that question is Roland-Garros 2010. And with Novak Djokovic falling two rounds earlier, this Australian Open is the first Major where the top two seeds have fallen before the quarter-finals since the French Open in 2004 (Federer losing in the third round, Roddick in the second). Now that these two giants have been slain, the rest of the field – and not just Mischa Zverev – will be licking their lips in anticipation.