A tearful Andy Murray on Friday announced he would likely retire this year due to severe pain from a hip injury, saying next week’s Australian Open could be the last tournament of a glittering career.
The former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner broke down at a press conference in Melbourne as he said the pain had become almost unbearable.
“I can play with limitations. But having the limitations and the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing or training,” the emotional Scot said.
31-year-old “Sir Andy,” said he would like to finish at his home Grand Slam in Wimbledon, but ruefully admitted he might not make it that far.
He will be remembered as the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years and as a player who battled his way to the top in a golden era for the game alongside Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
“Wimbledon is where I would like to stop playing, but I am not certain I am able to do that,” he said.
“I’ve been struggling for a long time. I’m not sure I can play through the pain for another four or five months.
“Pretty much-done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads.”
He pulled out of last year’s Australian Open to have hip surgery and only returned in June at Queen’s Club in London.
He ended the season at Shenzhen in September after only a handful of appearances to concentrate on working his way back to full fitness.
But he was knocked out in the second round on his return at Brisbane last week and called it quits on Thursday after less than an hour of a practice match in Melbourne against Djokovic, with his movement clearly hampered.
“I think there is a chance the Australian Open is my last tournament,” he said.
While he intends to begin his opening-round match against 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut next week, how his body withstands potentially gruelling five-set clashes in energy-sapping heat remains to be seen.
‘Legend of a bloke’
One of the so-called Big Four, along with Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, who has dominated the game for years, Murray’s ranking has slumped to 230.
He hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since winning his second Wimbledon title in 2016 but has nevertheless enjoyed a glittering career since turning professional in 2005, with not only three Grand Slam titles, but two Olympic gold medals and 45 ATP crowns.
Notably, in 2013 Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years, ending the nation’s obsession with finding a champion to follow in the footsteps of Fred Perry.
World number five Juan Martin del Potro, who has also struggled with injuries and will miss the Australian Open, told Murray to “keep fighting”.
“We love you @andy_murray and we want to see you happy and doing well,” he added.
Billie Jean King called him “a champion on and off the court”, referring to Murray’s long-time support of women’s equality in tennis.
“So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future. Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations,” she said.
Top Australian coach Darren Cahill, who until recently was mentoring world number one Simona Halep, said Murray was an example of the never-say-die attitude that separated the best from the average.
“When you search for examples of ’emptied the bucket to be as good as they could be’ there should be a picture of Andy Murray sitting under that quote,” he tweeted.
“Remarkable discipline for training, competition, sacrifice, perfection, a little crazy but a legend of a bloke.”
Former star Andy Roddick also paid tribute on Twitter.
“I tip my cap to @andy_murray! Absolute legend. The shortlist of best tacticians in history. Unreal results in a brutal era. Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy,” he said.
Murray said he had an option of another operation on his troublesome hip, but it was more about his quality of life after hanging up his racquet.
“That’s something I’m seriously considering right now,” he said.
.@andy_murray You are a champion on and off the court. So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future. Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations. Much love to you & your family. https://t.co/AQUOP3LGec
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 11, 2019
When you search for examples of “emptied the bucket to be as good as they could be” there should be a picture of Andy Murray sitting under that quote. Remarkable discipline for training, competition, sacrifice, perfection, a little crazy 😃 but a legend of a bloke. Bravo Andy 👏
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 11, 2019
Andy, just watched your conference. Please don’t stop trying. Keep fighting. I can imagine your pain and sadness. I hope you can overcome this. You deserve to retire on your own terms, whenever that happens. We love you @andy_murray and we want to see you happy and doing well. 🙏
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) January 11, 2019