Pained Murray says Australian Open could be his swansong
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.