Andy Murray broke down in tears today as he revealed that he will end his incredible tennis career at Wimbledon later this year after failing to overcome a devastating hip injury.
In an emotional press conference, the two-time Wimbledon champion, 31, revealed that the pain was so great that the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, could be the last tournament he ever plays in.
He said that he hopes to go on until Wimbledon this summer but feels that even that may be a bridge too far, with the pain becoming so unbearable that he was struggling to even put on socks or shoes.
The Scot, who was thrashed in a practice match by Novak Djokovic yesterday, still plans to take his place in the Melbourne draw, but he could not rule out walking away from the sport if he loses in the first round.
It would bring down the curtain on one of the great British sporting careers, one that has seen him win three Grand Slams, two Olympic golds and the Davis Cup.
The announcement was met with shock and sadness from the tennis world, with former icons such as Billie Jean King and Andy Roddick calling the Brit a ‘great champion’ and ‘absolute legend’.
Murray, a father-of-two, began his press conference by stating ‘I’m not great’ in a broken tone when asked how he was feeling after an 18-month battle to return to the sport.
He then became emotional and left the room for several minutes to compose himself, and on returning laid bare in heartbreaking detail how the pain in his hip meant he had stopped enjoying the sport he loved.
It seems that his dream of his daughters being able to watch him seriously compete is now, sadly, at an end.
‘Obviously I have been struggling a long time and I have been in pain for about twenty months now,’ he said.
‘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 here. I can still play to a certain level, not a level I’m happy playing at.
It’s not just that. The pain is too much really, I don’t want to continue playing that way.
‘I’ve tried pretty much everything I could do but it hasn’t worked. In the middle of December I spoke to my team and told them I can’t keep doing ‘I thought I need to have an end point, because I was playing with no idea of when the pain was going to stop.
‘I said to them maybe I could get through this until Wimbledon, that is where I would like to stop playing but I am also not certain I am able to do that.’
Asked whether this could turn out to be his last event he replied: ‘There’s a chance of that for sure.’
Murray, whose coach Jamie Delgado later tweeted, ‘That wasn’t the easiest day I’ve ever had’, would love to be able to take his final bow on the Centre Court but things have got so bad that he may not get to depart at the time and place of his choosing.
‘I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months. I have considered another operation that is a little more severe (than the one he had this time last year).
‘I could have my hip resurfaced which would allow me a better quality of life. I’m seriously considering that right now but there’s no guanratees with it.’
‘It would be nice to do things without any pain, putting shoes and socks on, that would be the main reason for me doing it.’ He sounded very pessimistic that it would be the kind of surgery that would allow him to play again. He even ruled out the idea of becoming a doubles player, which would require less movement.
Murray saw his Australian surgeon John O’ Donnell on Thursday, the same man who operated on him on January 8 last year.
‘I have a severely damaged right hip,’ was Murray’s conclusion. ‘The pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing.’
He also spoke of the mental turmoil of having to answer questions about his health: ‘Everyone I bump into that’s all they want to talk about, it’s pretty draining. I have spoken to psychologists about it. It’s not fun or enjoyable.’
Murray’s career highlights include two Wimbledons, a US Open title and two Olympic gold medals, at London and Rio.
He also carried Great Britain to victory in the 2015 Davis Cup, winning eleven matches over four rounds under the old format.
Grand Slams were what would go on to define any great champion but Murray quickly excelled at the Olympics, first in front of a home crowd at London 2012 beating Roger Federer, before collecting his second with victory over Juan Martin del Potro.But the maiden Slam title was the big breakthrough – and it came across the Atlantic.
His first Grand Slam brought with it plenty of history as his success at Flushing Meadows saw him end Britain’s 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion.
The epic 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final lasted four hours and 54 minutes in New York but was a sign that the Briton was a big player at the top of the game.
Wimbledon remained the one he craved so dearly and 12 months on from his success in the Olympic Games, he was back on Centre Court with the trophy in his hands. A clinical 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win over Djokovic was a stylish way to give those in attendance memories that will not have faded to this day.
In an emotional Instagram post, Murray wrote alongside a picture of him and his mum: ‘Best way to feel better after a tough day is a big cuddle from your mum.
‘Genuinely been very touched by all of the messages and support from everybody today… It means a lot and has made me feel much more positive than when I woke this morning. Thank you so much.’
SW19 is where Murray wants to end his career now – and where he feels most at home.
Building on the decisive 2013 win over Djokovic, Murray collected his second Wimbledon singles title three years later with victory against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
However, it now appears that it is purely a question of whether he can get through the next few weeks, let alone recapture former glories.
Reaction to the news was swift on Thursday night, with America’s former world number one Andy Roddick leading the way.
He took to Twitter, writing: ‘I tip my cap to @andy_murray ! Absolute legend. Short list of best tacticians in history. Unreal results in a brutal era …… Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy.’
Tennis coach Darren Cahill added: ‘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.’
Former women’s world No 1 Tracy Austin, speaking on TennisTV, said: ‘It was just really hard to watch Andy practice (on Wednesday). It was a practice match against (Novak) Djokovic and it was 6-1, 4-1 and he wasn’t really moving.
‘He is giving it every shot in the off-season to come back after hip surgery. Such a good guy and Djokovic even tried to help him. It is really tough to hear the news.’
Women’s ace Donna Vekic simply tweeted the praying hands and a sad face emoji as she reacted to the news in the early hours of Friday morning.