‘I felt helpless against Djokovic and it sucks’
Lack of competitiveness and rivalry left Murray devastated Next hip operation will be to improve the quality of his life
TENNIS CORRESPONDENT in Melbourne Little by little, drip by drip, it was the accretion of small agonies that drove Andy Murray into the interview room at Melbourne Park yesterday to tearfully announce his impending retirement.
Most ordinary mortals would have packed it in long ago, but then Murray would not have won two Wimbledon titles without his extraordinary stubbornness. A natural ditherer, he likes to keep all options in play until the last minute.
What pushed him over the edge this time was the humiliation of Thursday afternoon’s practice match against world No 1 Novak Djokovic.
Murray and Djokovic were born just a week apart, in May 1987, so their careers travelled in parallel. Here at the Australian Open, they contested no fewer than four finals. Murray lost the lot, but at least he had always competed – until now.
“You just kind of feel, like, helpless on the court,” he told a group of British reporters yesterday, after an emotional press conference which saw him break down in tears and temporarily leave the room when he first tried to speak.
“It’s just … it sucks. I’ve played I don’t know how many hours of tennis against him here over the years. And although I didn’t win, the competitiveness was always there. Yesterday, there was none of that and there was no feeling of rivalry. I was just not happy with the way I felt on court.”
Having shaken hands at the end of his 6-1, 4-1 drubbing, Murray sat on the courtside bench with his team and waved his hands around angrily in a lengthy debrief. Many observers wondered then whether he might withdraw from the Australian Open. And perhaps he would have done, had there been a decent chance of his returning here in 12 months’ time.
As it is, Monday’s first-round meeting with Roberto Bautista Agut – the 22nd seed, and the recent champion in Doha – looks likely to be his final match as a professional tennis player.
Once his tournament is done, Murray will almost certainly report for a second operation on that recalcitrant right hip. The first, which was carried out here in Melbourne 12 months ago, was an arthroscopy – a simple clear-out of angry tissue and floating cartilage, which failed to resolve his chronic pain. The second will be a more significant procedure, in which the top of his femur and the inside of his hip socket are both coated with a layer of metal.
Murray has already stated that the priority of his next surgery will be quality of life, rather than adding to his already sparkling tennis CV. He disclosed that he has been struggling to even put on shoes and socks without significant pain.
“If I stop playing tennis today,” he added, “I would seriously be considering having an operation because day-to-day life is not fun. I can’t do stuff I would want to do, even if I wasn’t a professional athlete. I would want to go and play football with my friends, or go and play 18 holes of golf and enjoy doing that. Whereas I can’t think of anything worse than going and playing five-a-side football with my friends, because I can’t kick a football.
“There is a possibility it could prolong my career. Hip resurfacing is something that has been around for 15 years and allows younger
Andy Murray arrives at his scheduled press conference in Melbourne yesterday The tears start to flow as Murray struggles to speak to the assembled media
Asked how he is feeling, Murray replies “not great”, his voice cracking
Pain game: Andy Murray with his mother, Judy, on Instagram (left) in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, and in discomfort during his practice match against Novak Djokovic (right)