Great ri­valsp ay tribute to Mur­ray.

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - SPORT - BY ELEANOR CROOKS

Djoko vic cher­ishes‘ amaz­ing’ en­coun­ters with Mur­ray; Fed er er‘ sad’ at S cot’ s im­mi­nent re­tire­ment

Roger Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic added trib­utes to the out­pour­ing of sup­port for Andy Mur­ray as the Scot gears up for what could be his fi­nal pro­fes­sional ten­nis match.

Mur­ray will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round of the Aus­tralian Open to­day be­fore de­cid­ing the best next course of ac­tion for his in­jured right hip.

It was a prac­tice match against Djokovic on Thurs­day that laid bare the se­ri­ous­ness of Mur­ray’s con­tin­ued strug­gles and led to him emo­tion­ally an­nounc­ing his im­mi­nent re­tire­ment the fol­low­ing day.

Djokovic did not even ap­pear to be play­ing quite at full tilt de­spite los­ing only two games, but he in­sisted he was not tak­ing it easy.

“It was very ob­vi­ous for every­one, you saw it, you didn’t need to be on court, to no­tice that he’s strug­gling, that he’s not mov­ing as well as he nor­mally does,” said Djokovic.

“We’ve seen so many years of Andy Mur­ray be­ing one of the fittest guys on the tour, run­ning around the court, get­ting al­ways an ex­tra ball back. I think to that ex­tent, we are kind of sim­i­lar.

“Our tra­jec­tory to the pro­fes­sional ten­nis world was pretty much sim­i­lar. His birth­day is one week be­fore mine. We’ve grown to­gether play­ing ju­nior events. We played lots of epic matches in the pro­fes­sional cir­cuit.

“Ob­vi­ously to see him strug­gle so much and go through so much pain, it’s very sad and it hurts me as his long-time friend, col­league, ri­val.”

Djokovic posted a tribute on In­sta­gram to a man he has known since they first faced each other as 13-yearolds in 2001, con­clud­ing: “What­ever hap­pens, I will al­ways cher­ish our amaz­ing matches over the years and be grate­ful for those ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Mur­ray’s hip prob­lem first flared up at the French Open in 2017, with the Scot go­ing un­der the knife the fol­low­ing Jan­uary.

Late in 2017, Fed­erer took part in Mur­ray’s char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion event in Glas­gow, and re­mem­bers how much the three-time Grand Slam cham­pion was strug­gling.

“I knew how not well he was,” said Fed­erer. “I couldn’t be­lieve he ac­tu­ally played. But it was for a good cause.

“I guess ev­ery­body can un­der­stand where he comes from. At some point when you feel like you’re never go­ing to get back to 100%, you’ve had the suc­cess that Andy has had, you can only un­der­stand the de­ci­sion.

“I was dis­ap­pointed and sad, a lit­tle bit shocked, to know now that we’re go­ing to lose him at some point,” he said.

“I hope that he can play a good Aus­tralian Open and he can keep play­ing be­yond that, re­ally fin­ish the way he wants to at Wim­ble­don.”

HAND OF FRIEND­SHIP: Roger Fed­erer be­ing con­grat­u­lated by Andy Mur­ray at Wim­ble­don 2012; the Swiss ace has paid tribute to the Scot

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