Alexander Zverev’s 26th birthday is one the German tennis star will want to forget after the German suffered a shock straight sets defeat to Australia’s Christopher O’Connell. The unheralded Aussie – ranked 82nd in the world – defied his status against World No.16 Zverev after bundling the local hope out 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
Zverev would have been looking to gain some form and crucial preparation in the lead-up to the French Open after his ill-tempered defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the last 16 of the Monte Carlo Masters last week. Competing on home soil against an Australian opponent that he would have fully expected to beat, things did not go to plan for the 26-year-old.
The match was supposed to take place a day earlier in Munich but rain postponed the last-16 clash, meaning Zverev took to the court on his birthday. O’Connell spoiled the celebrations for the German though, after converting his first match point just short of the two-hour mark to make it through to the last eight.
In cold temperatures, the 16th-ranked Zverev took time to warm up, losing serve early in the first set. Despite a strong home fanbase cheering the Hamburg native on to the tiebreak, he made a number of errors close to the net, before losing the opening stanza to the Aussie underdog.
Zverev broke back late in the second to level at 4-4, but lost the following two games to lose the set and the match. The former World No.2 and Olympic Games gold medallist’s defeat left the tennis world in shock, with some describing it as “embarrassing” for the German.
2nd Top-20 win 🙌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 20, 2023
Bit embarrassing for Zverev. His birthday match in his home country and he just lost in straight sets to Christopher O’Connell, the OG Aussie Sensation (definition – https://t.co/LLKHFK38j5)
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) April 20, 2023
Shocking performance by Alexander Zverev leading to another early round exit this year 👎
— Jerome (@YungRaptorrr) April 20, 2023
Certainly one of Zverev worst performances. Can’t lose a match like that. Match plan was awful
— Turtle (@bridgeorbentley) April 20, 2023
Christopher O’Connell in biggest win of career
O’Connell couldn’t hide his delight after being asked on court whether his victory over the World No.16 was the biggest in his six years as a pro. “Yeah, for sure,” he beamed.
“It’s definitely hard playing Zverev here in front of his home crowd. I’m definitely not prepared to play in this weather – this is the coldest I’ve ever played in, it was tough! Took me a while to get warmed up.”
Ultimately, Zverev never did warm up and admitted afterwards: “In the last few years I can’t really handle the pressure of playing in Germany. I’m incredibly nervous. In the games I’m nowhere close the level I show in training. I put the pressure on myself. It doesn’t come from outside.”
In other results, top seed Holger Rune eliminated German Yannick Hanfmann in straight sets. Rune – up to a career-high ranking of seventh after reaching the Monte Carlo final last week – shrugged off the cold weather as he advanced 6-3, 6-4.