Andy Murray broke down in tears on Friday as he explained the Australian Open might be his last event as a professional tennis player. The 31-year-old Briton is scheduled to meet the 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the opening round of the season’s first Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne.
Murray, a former world number one, has plunged down the rankings due to a persistent hip injury and the five time finalist is not expected to reach the latter stages of the competition unlike Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with whom he comprised ‘the Big Four’.
Together they have accounted for all of the Wimbledon titles since 2003. Federer has eight, Djokovic four while Nadal and Murray have collected two apiece.
Murray told journalists that his intention had been to play until Wimbledon. However, he said, the constant pain was making even that goal remote.
“I can play with limitations,” he said. “But having the limitations and the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing or training. Wimbledon is where I would like to stop playing but I am not certain I am able to do that.
“I’ve been struggling for a long time. I’m not sure I can play through the pain for another four or five months. I’ve pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads.”
Murray etched himself into national legend when he won Wimbledon in 2013. With his straight sets victory over Djokovic, he became the first British man to claim the singles title in 77 years.
In 2016, Murray outwitted Milos Raonic to hoist the crown for a second time. Later that summer he beat Juan Martin del Potro to retain his Olympic title.
Del Potro, who will miss the 2019 Australian Open due to injury, led the list of well-wishers. “Please don’t stop trying. Keep fighting,” the Argentine wrote on social media.
“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 and we want to see you happy and doing well.”
Former world number one Andy Roddick added: “Unreal results in a brutal era. Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy.”
The American, who lost to Federer in three Wimbledon finals, added: “He deserves his moment to say goodbye at Wimbledon. He’s too important to Great Britain and Wimbledon history to not have it. He just needs to play any match for the goodbye he deserves.”
Murray won 45 titles on the circuit often having to go through Djokovic, Federer or Nadal. His ascent to the top of the men’s game in November 2016 made him the first British player to do so since the rankings system was computerized in August 1973.
He was famed for his dedication and determination. There was also innovation. In June 2014, he became the first leading male player to hire a female coach when he drafted Amelie Mauresmo into his team. It was an alliance that lasted two years.
Billie Jean King, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, before becoming one of the most powerful advocates for equality on the circuit, declared Murray a champion on and off the court.
“Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come,” she added. “Your voice for equality will inspire future generations.”