Just a month into the season, the top seeds in men’s tennis are already struggling. Three days after Novak Djokovic stunning loss to Denis Istomin, World No. 1 Andy Murray fell as well, losing today to World No. 50 Mischa Zverev 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round.
Murray suffered his earliest exit at the Australian Open since a 2008 first round loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It was his first Grand Slam as a top seed.
In the match, Murray was broken 8 times and couldn’t find the range on his passing shot against the 29-year-old German who serve-and-volleyed 118 times.
Since his Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Murray reached the quarterfinals at the US Open and the fourth round at the Australian Open.
He spoke to the press after the loss.
Q. You normally don’t see a guy coming in 118 times. How did that affect you? How strange is it to face?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I mean, I don’t think it’s so much someone necessarily coming in. It’s the shots he was coming up with when he did come forward. I mean, he came up with some great pickups, you know, reflex volleys especially at the end of the match when it was tight. That was tough because I was hitting some good shots, chasing some good balls down.
Just wasn’t meant to be. He served very well when he needed to, especially when he was behind in games. Yeah, he deserved to win because, you know, he played great when he was down, and also in the important moments.
I was kind of behind in the last couple of sets the whole way. But the first two sets, I had chances. I was up a break I think in both of them pretty early. Couldn’t convert my opportunities.
Q. Usually you play pretty well against the serve-and-volley players. You like a target at the net. Today was it you weren’t feeling your return passing shot?
ANDY MURRAY: I think he came up with some great shots. Maybe there’s a few shots obviously in a match of three and a half hours that you probably could have done better with. But I did also come up with some great returns in the last game. The 30-All point, I hit a great return right down to his feet and a really good lob, and reflexed his smash. I read it well. He just kept coming up with great shots.
I think it was the point before the match point when he came up with a reflex or drop volley winner. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if I returned badly. I thought I returned reasonably well. I definitely could have served better the last couple of sets.
Q. Did you feel flat, low on energy at all? At one stage you were shouting ‘energy’ at the changeover.
ANDY MURRAY: I don’t think I was flat. I feel like that’s something I get asked all the time when I lose matches. Were you flat?
I don’t think I was today. I was getting myself pumped up. Sometimes at the end of the sets I was trying to get a little more energy, you know, show more sort of positive body language. And I did that at the end of the match, at the end of the first and second sets.
It just wasn’t to be today.
Q. Did you expect at some point as he got closer that he might tighten up and get nervous, realize where he was?
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, look, I had some opportunities at the end. I think the last two service games I had chances. Maybe three service games in the last set I had opportunities. Maybe missed a couple of balls that he had been making.
But then, yeah, he came back from all of the mistakes that he made, kept coming, kept coming up with great shots. You know, there’s not too much you can do about that. Sometimes you got to say, Well played.
It was obviously disappointing to lose. But, you know, he did some good stuff out there.
Q. You’re the same age. You came up together through juniors. Great year, No. 1, gold medal, world champion. Is there a part of you that’s happy for him?
ANDY MURRAY: Right now I’m more disappointed for myself. Obviously it’s a tough one to lose. Obviously, you know, I wanted to go far in this event. It’s the earliest I’ve lost here for, I don’t know, a long time. So I’m disappointed right now.
Like I said, 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.
Q. Two lower-ranked players have beaten the very top players. Talk about the margins of error in the ATP, how that plays into today’s result.
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, obviously in the slams, with the best-of-five format, you have time, you know, to turn things around. There’s also time to mess it up, I guess, as well.
But, you know, in the best-of-three set matches, it feels like there’s less margin for error. If you play a bad set, you’re immediately under pressure, whereas in the slams you have time to sort of figure it out and try to turn it around.
Yeah, there’s always a chance to come back. You know, I didn’t see Novak’s match at all, but I can only comment on my match today. Every time it was close points, I put Mischa under pressure, he came up with great stuff. That’s unfortunate for me and great for him. He deserves to be in the next round.
Q. Did you have any sense at any point this month, being a very long, hard end to last season, that perhaps this season had come around a little bit early?
ANDY MURRAY: Look, I mean, obviously the off-season for me was fairly short just because I had to take a decent break after the Tour Finals. But, you know, it was a great way to finish last year. I was full of confidence coming into the beginning of this year. I prepared as best as I could.
But maybe have to have a look back and assess some things and see maybe if there’s some stuff I could have done differently, or did my opponent just play a great match? Sometimes that can happen, as well.
I don’t know if the end of last season had any bearing on today. I wouldn’t have thought so.
Q. It’s very soon after the event, but what is your plan for the next few weeks?
ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know what I’m going to do immediately. Have a chat to my family first. Didn’t get to see loads of them at the end of last year with training and then going over to Doha and stuff. First people I’ll speak to is them, see what I do.
And, yeah, Davis Cup would be next on the schedule. But whether I stay here or go home in the meantime, I’m not sure.
Q. You’ve been on such a run since the French Open. Is this loss a bigger shock, more brutal to you because you’ve been winning so much or…
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I’m obviously down about it. It’s just tennis. I mean, I had great success for a number of months. Obviously, you know, in the biggest events you want to do your best. Obviously that’s not been the case here. You know, it happens.
I’ve had tough losses in my career in the past. I’ve come back from them. 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.
Q. Having been so close so many times here, is it sort of doubly disappointing? Do you feel like you missed an opportunity?
ANDY MURRAY: Did I miss an opportunity? I don’t know. I mean, every year you come is a different chance, different opportunity. I mean, still, even had I got through this match, Nishikori or Roger are waiting. Stan’s still in. Guys like Tsonga. I don’t know exactly what’s happening in the match with Dan, but you’ve got, I don’t know, Roger plus three guys that are pretty much in the top 10 in the world in my half. There’s certainly no guarantees, even if I got through today’s match, that I would have gone further.
Yeah, it’s disappointing to lose. I don’t feel like this is any more of an opportunity than other years.
Q. Is it playing a little bit quicker this year, would that help his game?
ANDY MURRAY: I think the temperatures make it faster, definitely when it’s that hot. When I played Sam the other day, it’s 20 degrees and cool, that slows things down. Definitely it’s a bit faster.
I don’t know whether that helps his game or not. I don’t know what his best surface and best conditions are. Maybe it would be best to ask him.
You get a little bit more on the serve, maybe, when it’s like this. You know, it’s not that easy to control volleys when the ball’s flying through the air like that. He did a great job of that today.
Q. Having played your first slam tournament as No. 1, do you think it changed anything, playing in these tight moments?
ANDY MURRAY: No. I mean, I didn’t think about it at all the whole time I was playing in the event and not at all when I was on the court in any of the matches.
Once you get out there, rankings are completely irrelevant, you know, in my opinion anyway. Yeah, that played no bearing on anything.
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