Pained Murray says Aus­tralian Open could be his swan­song

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Andy Murray may re­tire after the Aus­tralian Open, with the se­vere pain from his trou­ble­some right hip hav­ing be­come al­most un­bear­able for him to play on, the for­mer world num­ber one said yesterday.

Over­come with emo­tion, the three-times Grand Slam cham­pion wept at a me­dia con­fer­ence as he re­vealed that he had ini­tially planned to quit after playing this year’s Wimbledon tour­na­ment but now felt Melbourne Park might end up his swan­song.

“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,” the 31-year-old Bri­ton, now ranked 230th in the world, said.

“The pain is too much, re­ally, and I don’t want to con­tinue playing that way.

“The pain is not al­low­ing me to en­joy com­pet­ing or train­ing or any of the stuff I love about tennis.”

Five-times a run­ner up at Melbourne Park, Murray had surgery on the joint a year ago, hav­ing played with pain for a num­ber of years.

He came back last June but was forced to cut his 2018 sea­son short.

While still strug­gling dur­ing a pre-sea­son camp in De­cem­ber, Murray said he had told his team that he felt he could not go on for much longer.

“Just playing with no idea when the pain was go­ing to stop, and I felt like mak­ing that decision,” he said.

“I said to my team, ‘Look, I think I can kind of get through this un­til Wimbledon.’ That was where I’d like to stop — stop playing. But I’m also not cer­tain I’m able to do that.”

Twice Wimbledon win­ner Murray, Bri­tain’s first men’s cham­pion since Fred Perry in 1936, left the door to an even­tual come­back slightly ajar, say­ing he was mulling an­other round of ma­jor hip surgery.

He said he had been in touch with Amer­i­can dou­bles cham­pion Bob Bryan, who re­turned to the court at the re­cent Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional after hav­ing the surgery.

The twice Olympic cham­pion added, though, that the op­er­a­tion would be more aimed at im­prov­ing qual­ity of life than pro­long­ing his ca­reer.

“I have an op­tion to have an­other op­er­a­tion which is a lit­tle bit more kind of se­vere than what I’ve had be­fore, hav­ing my hip resurfaced which would al­low me to have a bet­ter qual­ity of life,” he said.

“That’s some­thing I’m se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing right now.

“Bob Bryan had this op­er­a­tion post-Wimbledon last year and is ob­vi­ously playing.

“But ob­vi­ously there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween sin­gles and dou­bles in terms of the phys­i­cal­ity and move­ment and stuff. Cer­tainly, no guar­an­tees there.”

Murray said ba­sic things in ev­ery­day life, like putting on socks and shoes, were caus­ing him se­vere pain and he had grown weary of talk­ing about his hip in ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion.

Murray, who vis­i­bly strug­gled in a 6-1 4-1 prac­tice match defeat to top seed No­vak Djokovic at Melbourne Park on Thurs­day, has been drawn to play 22nd seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round on Mon­day.

“I’m go­ing to play, I can still play to a level, not a level that I’m happy playing at,” he said.

Tennis ace Andy Murray’s tear­ful an­nounce­ment that he’ll be forced to re­tire this year prompted a vol­ley of trib­utes to the man, fond rec­ol­lec­tions of a his­toric ca­reer and en­cour­age­ment to serve up a fit­ting farewell.

Amer­i­can star Andy Rod­dick led the trib­utes to the for­mer world num­ber one, de­scrib­ing his 11-time op­po­nent as an “ab­so­lute leg­end” who is on the “short list of best tac­ti­cians” in the his­tory of the sport.

“Un­real re­sults in a bru­tal era. Noth­ing but re­spect here. I hope he can fin­ish strong and healthy,” he said.

Murray’s fail­ure to re­cover from a long-term hip in­jury has put his dream to win next week’s Aus­tralian Open al­most be­yond reach.

Such is the level of pain that there is spec­u­la­tion he may not be able to go the dis­tance, much less set up a dream farewell at Wimbledon this July.

Ar­gentina’s Juan Martin del Potro — who fell short against Murray in a mem­o­rable 2016 Olympic gold medal game — urged him not to throw in the towel.

“Andy, just watched your con­fer­ence. Please don’t stop try­ing. Keep fight­ing,” he wrote.

“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.”

The sen­ti­ment was echoed by tennis’ women stars, who Murray cham­pi­oned — fa­mously re­buk­ing a jour­nal­ist for gloss­ing over Amer­i­can greats like Ser­ena Wil­liams ar­gu­ing for equal billing on the cen­tre courts.

In­dian star Sa­nia Mirza dubbed him her “forever­favourite” and a “#forever­acham­pion”.

Leg­end Bil­lie Jean King declared him a “cham­pion on and off the court”.

“Your great­est im­pact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equal­ity will in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

That sen­ti­ment was echoed by Bel­gian four-time ma­jor win­ner Kim Cli­jsters, who like many could not help but be moved by Murray’s emo­tional an­nounce­ment.

“My heart breaks lis­ten­ing to @andy_­mur­ray dur­ing his press con­fer­ence,” she tweeted.

It is in his na­tive Bri­tain that the an­nounce­ment will be per­haps most keenly felt.

Many hoped he can muster the strength and fit­ness to re­turn to the All Eng­land Club — where he twice won in fairy­tale fash­ion — for a ca­reer fi­nale.

“He de­serves his mo­ment to say good­bye at Wimbledon. He’s too im­por­tant to Great Bri­tain and Wimbledon his­tory to not have it,” said Rod­dick.

“He just needs to play any match for the good­bye he de­serves.”

US Davis Cup cap­tain Mardy Fish pointed to Murray’s fa­mous de­ter­mi­na­tion, which helped him com­pete against stronger and more skilled play­ers.

“The @andy_­mur­ray that I know will ab­so­lutely make it to Wimbledon to play his fi­nal tour­na­ment,” he tweeted. “Not many with more heart, ef­fort in the his­tory of the game. Was al­ways a plea­sure to share the court pal.”

Andy Murray of Bri­tain breaks down dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Melbourne yesterday where he an­nounced his plans to re­tire later this year.

In this file photo taken on July 10, 2016 Bri­tain’s Andy Murray poses with the tro­phy after win­ning the Wimbledon ti­tle.

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