ANDY MURRAY has announced that he is to retire from tennis later this year.
In an emotional press conference ahead of the Australian Open, the Dunblane-born star said he hoped to bow out after Wimbledon.
However, he admitted he was not sure if he’d be even be able to continue playing until then, with a recurring injury still causing him problems.
The Scot laid bare the effects of the pain in his right hip that has dogged him for more than 18 months.
Murray is hoping to able to go out on home soil at Wimbledon in the summer but conceded Monday’s match against Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round in Melbourne could be his last.
The 31-year-old told reporters: “Obviously I’ve been struggling for a long time. I’ve been in a lot of pain for about 20 months now.
“I’ve pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads. I’m in a better place than I was six months ago but still in a lot of pain. It’s been tough.
“I’m going to play. I can still play to a level. Not a level that I’m happy playing at. But it’s not just that. The pain is too much really and I don’t want to continue playing that way.
“During my training block (in Miami last month) I spoke to my team and told them I can’t keep doing this. I needed to have an end point because I was sort of playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop.
“I said to my team, look I think I can get through this until Wimbledon. That’s where I’d like to stop playing. But I’m also not certain I’m able to do that.”
After another pause while Murray sat with his head on the desk, he was asked whether this might be his last tournament.
“Yes I think there’s a chance of that for sure because I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months,” he said.
“I have an option to have another operation, which is a little bit more severe than what I’ve had before in having my hip resurfaced, which will allow me to have a better quality of life and be out of pain.
“That’s something I’m seriously considering right now. Some athletes have had that and gone back to competing but there’s obviously no guarantees with that and the reason for having an operation like that is not to return to professional sport, it’s just for a better quality of life.”
Murray’s career in numbers
1 – Murray became the first British singles player ever to officially be ranked world number one on November 7, 2016.
41 – The number of weeks the Scot spent on top of the rankings.
3 – Grand slam titles
11 – Grand slam finals
45 – Career singles titles
2 – Doubles titles, both with brother Jamie
9 – Singles titles in 2016, including five in a row to end the season as world number one
2 – Olympic singles gold medals
11 – Murray won all 11 rubbers he contested to drive Great Britain to Davis Cup glory in 2015, an unprecedented feat
663 – Tour-level matches won
61,055,135 – Career prize money, in US dollars
3 – Only person to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year three times
5,573 – Aces served
29 – Combined wins against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
The start to Andy Murray's press conference was very emotional ? pic.twitter.com/hObwoj71uo
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 11, 2019
Murray’s announcement was met with a flurry of support from the world of tennis and beyond.
Kyle Edmund led the tributes to the man he called his “biggest role model”.
Murray has played a mentoring role with a number of British players but none more significant than Edmund, who overtook him as the country’s leading player after reaching the semi-finals here 12 months ago.
Edmund said: “For me he’s been my biggest role model out of any tennis player. He’s Britain’s greatest tennis player ever and you could say maybe Britain’s best sportsman ever.
“To be able to have had the experiences that I’ve had with him and memories in terms of training with him and getting to know him personally and seeing what he’s done on the court and achieved, he’s definitely helped my career.
“It’s obviously not nice to read that he’s going to be retiring at some point but, at the same time, it’s a nice way to reflect his career, knowing that he’s going to be done, and seeing what he’s achieved. It’s been amazing.”
The prevailing feeling among British tennis players was one of sadness, with Johanna Konta saying: “I can’t imagine the sport without him to be honest. He has just been there all the time.”
Murray’s support for women and the women’s game was also appreciated by British number one Konta, who said: “There have been so many examples of when he has stood up for us – not just for women’s tennis but women in general.
“He has also been blessed with two daughters and I think he’s grown up with a really strong female role model with his mum and now his wife is also a strong character so he is surrounded by great, strong women.
“He has put that through in the way he has voiced his opinions and the way he has tackled some questions and issues that have arisen and I think everybody has always been very appreciative of him.”
.@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
Billie Jean King added her tribute, writing on Twitter: “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 and your family.”
German player Andrea Petkovic told reporters: “He was always my favourite, and I think it will be a huge loss for tennis in general, but also for the WTA. Because even nowadays, when you think everything is equal, you still need men, especially successful men, to speak up for women.”
Murray is a well-respected and popular figure in the locker room, and his friends and rivals were quick to add their tributes.
Grigor Dimitrov said: “For sure he will be missed. He’s been a great friend above everything.
“His sense of humour at times is so weird but I enjoy it. We just recently had dinner in Brisbane.
“He’s overall a great guy, great competitor, loves the sport, gave so much to the sport and proved that with hard work everything is possible.
“I really wish him the best because it’s also a new beginning for the rest of his life. I just hope he can finish at his favourite tournament at Wimbledon.”
Juan Martin Del Potro, who can empathise more than most with Murray’s injury struggles, urged the Scot not to give up.
He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Nick Kyrgios, who struck up a somewhat unlikely friendship with Murray, paid an emotional tribute on Instagram, saying: “Andy, I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend.
“You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing.
“You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and for everyone you’ve had an impact on.”
?| “Andy Murray is an inspiration and a role model. He’s been the ideal mentor to Fraser Murray and Ryan Porteous. I hope he’s able to finish an incredible career on his terms. Everyone at Hibernian Football Club is rooting for him.” Neil Lennon. pic.twitter.com/jxAdSicxRl
— Hibernian FC (@HibernianFC) January 11, 2019
Former British number one Greg Rusedski told BBC News: “Obviously it’s sad to hear about his retirement, but just look at his career.
“He has had the most phenomenal career; three grand slams, Davis Cup winner, world number one, winning the end-of-season championships. Amazing, amazing results.
“He’s probably the best player Britain has ever had and one of our best athletes as well.
“Obviously it’s sad news from Andy Murray’s perspective but let’s celebrate an amazing career and let’s hope he can finish it at Wimbledon.”