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 yesterday.
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.
“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.”
There were some nerves as Zverev served for the match – he netted one straightforward overhead – but he recovered his composure to go through to the quarter-finals when Murray sent a forehand long.
Zverev said: “It means the world to me and it means a lot that my family is here and my box is full.”
Zverev sat in the same box on Saturday watching his 19-year-old brother Alexander, tipped by many to be a future grand slam champion, lose over five sets to Rafael Nadal.
It will now be the 29-year-old older sibling, however, who will take the family name into the final week of a grand slam for the first time.
Later, a resilient Federer showed there was life in the 35-year-old’s legs as he overhauled fifth seed Kei Nishikori 6-7 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3.
After six months out of the game, Federer’s fairytale return continued under the lights of Rod Laver Arena where he emphatically quashed doubts about his fitness in three hours and 24 minutes of high-octane tennis.
Having stormed into the match after a 90-minute demolition of Tomas Berdych, Federer showed his appetite for a grind, going toe-to-toe with the fleet-footed Japanese in a match of marathon points.
He sealed the match with an imperious smash down the line.
Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka’s hopes of a second Australian Open title were delivered a huge boost as he did well to fend off Andreas Seppi 7-6 7-6 7-6.
Fourth seed Wawrinka now finds himself the highest ranked player in the top half of the draw and with the credentials to go all the way to emulate his 2014 championship.
However, the hard-working Swiss faces a tough match against former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the semi-finals.
Veteran Tsonga, who enjoyed his own storybook run to the final in 2008, took time to find his groove but finished full of running to down Briton Dan Evans 6-7 6-2 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 53 minutes as twilight fell at the Hisense Arena.
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