Britain’s Andy Murray leaves the court following his defeat against Germany’s Mischa Zverev during their men’s singles fourth round match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 22, 2017. GREG WOOD / AFP
Andy Murray was denied his bid for a first Australian Open title when the older Zverev brother (ranked 50th in the world) achieved a stunning upset, 7/5; 5/7; 6/2; 6/4 in the epic match at the RLA. It must have evoked painful memories of the five times he lost in the Australian Open finals to Djokovic.
Murray got the first break in the first set and led 3-1, but could not consolidate as he conceded a break. Zverev missed an approach volley and games leveled 3-all. The German took the eleventh game to lead 6-5 and he won the set with an ace.
Murray held serve and broke the German’s to lead 2-0. He had the first advantage, and a lob over his head elicited a drive to the bottom of the net but he won the game for 3-2. He took his opponent’s serve and led 4-2, but Murray lost the seventh game on his serve. He broke the German’s serve to take the second set, 7-5. The second set progressed quickly and the German player won by a one-sided tally of 6games to 2.
The fourth set was anticipated to be Murray’s counterpunch as he was to serve first. But he was broken at the outset. Then Zverev held serve to lead 2-0, but Murray reduced the tally in winning his service game.
From that stage on, each player held his own serve, but with Murray trailing on account of the early loss of his serve. In the eighth game, Zverev was down 0-40 on his serve, but he saved them and eventually clinched the game to stay ahead 5-3.
Murray did not drop a point in the ninth game that he won with a passing shot down the line of Zverev at the net. Serving for the set and match, he dropped the first two points for 0-30 but made a deft drop volley to level and then reached match point 40-30. The prolonged ovation of the roaring crowd delayed proceeding for moments before the German stepped up to deliver a serve wide to Murray’s backhand. The return sailed past the sideline; and the set (and match) ended 6-4.
Zverev put pressure on Murray by unrelenting aggressive play and touch. At the net, he hit well placed volleys with power when balanced and dexterity when lounging. He was technically sound in all aspects of the serve-and-volley game; a refreshing difference from the boredom of long rallies from the baseline.
Tennis is geometrical in that the direction of ball flight is determined by the angle of the racket at impact. Only with such “anticipation” can a player return fast serves. The direction of Zverev’s shots, however, was difficult for Murray to “read” because he often played the ball on the rise (almost half-volley drives). He hit a combination of drives and slices. He struck two-handed and single handed backhands.
After the match, the man of the moment said he was in a sort of coma (in tennis this is called playing in the zone): “I was like in a coma and served and volleying my way through. It (the victory) means the world to me; my whole family is here supporting me.’ His mother is a tennis coach, while Dad, Zverev, coaches his two sons.
A day earlier, his younger brother, and higher ranked Alexander missed the opportunity to send out Rafael Nadal. In the prelude to that match, Alexander recalled his toddler years when he watched older brother in practice with contemporaries Murray and Djokovic. He also mentioned how helpful Murray was and how Federer has contributed to his maturing in the professional game. The senior Zverev will now face Roger Federer, who outlasted fifth seeded Kei Nishikori in five sets: 6/7 (4); 6/4; 6/1; 4/6; 6/2.
Mischa and Alexander evoke memories of John and Patrick McEnroe in many ways. Like the famous Ryan brothers; one is right-handed while the other is a southpaw. The two great southpaws of the past, Rod Laver and John McEnroe must be delighted at the success of Mischa’s serve-and-volley game. So are many tennis enthusiasts worldwide!
In a day of upsets, the top seed and world number one, Angelique Kerber, was a shadow of herself as she lost to upstart Coco Vandeweghe of the United States, in straight sets of 6/3; 6/4. Coco was down 1-3 in the second set but won three straight games to lead 4-3. She broke Kerber’s game to lead 5-4 and held her serve for the victory.
The 25-year old American is playing in her sixth Australian Open, lost in the first round last year but reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.