Tear­ful Mur­ray ad­mits Open could be his last

Weekend Herald - - Tennis - John Pye

A tear­ful Andy Mur­ray says the Aus­tralian Open could be his last tour­na­ment be­cause of the hip in­jury that has de­railed his ca­reer.

The 31-year-old Mur­ray said he trained in the off-sea­son with the main goal of mak­ing one last run at Wim­ble­don, where he ended the 77-year drought for Bri­tish men, but now wasn’t sure he’d make it.

In an emo­tional news con­fer­ence at Mel­bourne Park yes­ter­day, when he had to leave the room shortly af­ter his first at­tempt to get it started, and needed to pause sev­eral times to com­pose him­self af­ter re­turn­ing, Mur­ray said he wasn’t sure how much longer he could play.

“I’m go­ing to play (in Aus­tralia). I can still play to a level — not a level I’m happy play­ing at,” he said. “But also, it’s not just that. The pain is too much re­ally,”

The three-time Grand Slam cham­pion is sched­uled to play his open­ing match against No 22-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut at the Aus­tralian Open, where he has reached the fi­nal five times but never won the ti­tle.

Mur­ray had right hip surgery in Jan­uary 2018 af­ter pro­longed prob­lems with the joint. Af­ter two brief at­tempts to re­turn to the tour, he played only 12 matches last year.

He re­turned at the Brisbane In­ter­na­tional last week, where he won his open­ing match but lost in the sec­ond round to Daniil Medvedev, show­ing vis­i­ble signs of limp­ing be­tween points and strug­gling to move around court smoothly.

Mur­ray has had a cel­e­brated ca­reer, break­ing long Grand Slam droughts for Bri­tish men when he won the US Open in 2012 and at Wim­ble­don the fol­low­ing year, and also be­com­ing the only player to win con­sec­u­tive sin­gles gold medals at the Olympics.

He was con­sid­ered part of the so­called Big Four in men’s ten­nis with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and No­vak Djokovic — the group of play­ers who dom­i­nated the ma­jors.

Now it’s likely he’ll be the youngest of them to go into re­tire­ment. At 37, Federer is in Aus­tralia at­tempt­ing to win the ti­tle for the third con­sec­u­tive year and for a sev­enth time over­all. At

31, top-ranked Djokovic is at Mel­bourne Park also try­ing to win a sev­enth Aus­tralian ti­tle. The 32-yearold Nadal is ranked No 2 and con­fi­dent of ex­tend­ing his ca­reer for sev­eral years.

Mur­ray has been prepar­ing for the

2019 sea­son know­ing that his ca­reer could be over within months. He told his sup­port group that the pain was be­com­ing too much and that he needed to set a date for re­tire­ment.

He said he’s con­sid­er­ing an­other op­er­a­tion, more to im­prove his qual­ity of life than as a way of re­turn­ing to the top level in ten­nis.

Photo / Mark Baker

Andy Mur­ray breaks down in Mel­bourne.

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