Melbourne: The world number one had a great chance of winning the Australian Open for the first time after Novak Djokovic was knocked out, but the German world number 50 was too good on the day
The inspired German, who had never reached this stage of a Grand Slam before, drove the world No 1 to distraction by mixing up his shots and charging the net in the performance of his life.
Murray’s screams of frustration could not raise his game and he went down 7-5 5-7 6-2 6-4.
The Scot had lost the last two finals here to Novak Djokovic – and five finals in all – and had reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the last seven years. Turning 30 in May, the British No 1 seems destined never to win his favourite Grand Slam.
With Djokovic going out last week, it is the first time the top two male seeds at Australian Open went out before the quarter-finals since 2002 when Lleyton Hewiitt and Gustavo Kuerten both lost in first round. While Djokovic’s conqueror Denis Istomin is coached by his mother, Zverev is coached by his father Alex Snr.
Zverev’s younger brother Alex took Rafa Nadal to five sets on the same Rod Laver Court on Saturday but this time Mischa finished the job.
The German left-hander, who is also 29, saved a match point against John Isner in the first round before winning 9-7 in the fifth set. He broke Murray’s serve eight times and deserved the win.
There was no evidence of the drama to come in the opening games as Murray broke to lead 3-1 and had points to go to 4-1. But Zverev, who kept taking the pace off the ball to frustrate the Scot, would not go away and closed out the 63-minute first set with an ace.
Murray quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set before being clawed back to 3-3. The Scot failed to convert four set points at 4-5 before equaling the match up after just over two hours. They had already been 10 breaks of serve.
But any hopes of business returning to normal were quickly dispelled. Zverev continued his onslaught, attacking especially the Murray second serve, and he won four consecutive games from 2-2 to take the third set.
And the German broke again in the first game of the fourth set when another weak Murray forehand slapped into the net.
Murray has dug himself out of many holes over the years but not this time. The inevitable end came after three hours and 34 minutes when Zverev held his nerve and Murray pulled a forehand into the sidelines.
Zverev said: “Honestly I don’t know how I did it. I was in a little coma, I served and volleyed my way through. I don’t know how I did it. Somehow I did it.
“I got excited at the end but how could I not stay focused with the crowd. It was easy to stay aggressive. It was not easy to stay calm. Somehow I made it.”
The German missed a horrible overhead late in the match at 4-3. He said: “I immediately looked at my mum. She always smiles when I miss those balls and she did again. My brother inspires me all the time. He motivates me to get better.”