An emotional Andy Murray broke down during his pre-Australian Open press conference on Friday morning as he announced he’d be retiring from tennis, no later than Wimbledon this year.
The former world No. 1, who had surgery in Melbourne 12 months ago, admits the pain he feels in his hip “is too much” and that the Australian Open – which begins on Monday – could very much be the last tournament of his career.
Murray broke into tears at the start of his press conference and left the room before returning to take questions from the press.
“Not feeling good. Obviously been struggling for a long time. Been in a lot of pain for probably about 20 months now. I’ve pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads. I’m in a better place than I was six months ago but still in a lot of pain. It’s been tough,” said the 31-year-old Scot.
Murray plans on playing his Australian Open first round against Roberto Bautista Agut but is unsure about anything beyond that.
“I can still play to a level, not a level that I’m happy playing at but also it’s not just that. The pain is too much really, it’s not something that I want to – I don’t want to continue playing that way,” he explained.
“Like I said, I’ve tried pretty much everything that I could to get right and that hasn’t worked. My plan kind of middle to end of December during my training block, I spoke to my team and I told them I can’t keep doing this. I needed to have like an end point because just playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop and I felt like making that decision, I said to my team, ‘I think I can kind of get through this until Wimbledon, that’s where I’d like to stop playing’, but also I’m not certain I’m able to do that,” Murray added before tearing up again.
Murray concedes that “there’s a chance” that Melbourne would be his last tournament as he feels unsure he could withstand playing through the pain for another five months until Wimbledon, where he has triumphed twice, ending Great Britain’s 77-year men’s singles title drought at the event.
The three-time major champion is considering having another surgery to resurface his hip but he would not be doing it with the intention to return to professional tennis.
“It will allow me to have a better quality of life and be out of pain and that’s something I’m seriously considering right now. Some athletes have had that and gone back to competing but there’s obviously no guarantees with that. The reason for having an operation like that is not to return to professional sport, it’s for a better quality of life,” said Murray.
“For myself mainly. There’s lots of little things that, obviously you guys see me running around the tennis court and walking between points and I know it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look comfortable but there’s little things like day to day that are also a struggle. It would e nice to be able to do them without any pain. Putting shoes on, socks on, things like that. So that’s the main reason for doing it.
Murray has been dealing with hip pain for many years but says his French Open semifinal against Stan Wawrinka in 2017 “pushed it over the edge”.
“It just got to a level where I didn’t recover from that match,” he says.
“And having the operation was hopefully to make it as good as possible and it didn’t help with the pain at all and that’s the thing I’ve been struggling with, the walking and the certain things on the court that I can’t really do properly now, but the pain is the driving factor because I can play with limitations, that’s not an issue, it’s having the limitations and then also the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing or training or any of the stuff that I love about tennis.”
The Brit admits the whole process of dealing with his injury has been draining, adding: “I’ve talked a lot, way too much about my hip for 18 months pretty much, it’s a daily thing, and it’s not just people that I work with that ask me, it’s everyone. Everyone that I bump into, that’s all I talk about, it’s pretty draining.
“I’ve spoken, not loads but a number of times to psychologists and stuff about it but nothing helps because you’re in lots and lots of pain. You can’t do what it is that you want to do, you love doing. I can do it, it’s just not fun, not enjoyable doing it anymore. That’s kind of what I’ve done, tried to deal with it, talked about it, but none of that makes my hip feel better unfortunately, I wish it did, I’d be feeling brilliant just now, but it doesn’t so…”
— Daniel Vallverdu (@danielvallverdu) January 11, 2019
— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) January 11, 2019
— Donna Vekic (@DonnaVekic) January 11, 2019
If this is true, I tip my cap to @andy_murray ! Absolute legend. Short list of best tacticians in history. Unreal results in a brutal era …… Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy https://t.co/FZbwmvRC2r
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) January 11, 2019
.@andy_murray You are a champion on and off the court. So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future. Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations. Much love to you & your family. https://t.co/AQUOP3LGec
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 11, 2019
Tennis will come to an end for us all but the friendships will last a lifetime. What you’ve done for the sport will live on forever. I’m hoping for a strong and healthy finish for you, my friend! @andy_murray pic.twitter.com/Bcs0cdllJp
— Grigor Dimitrov (@GrigorDimitrov) January 11, 2019
The Australian Open draw was revealed on Thursday evening in Melbourne ahead Monday’s tournament kick-off date and it saw Roger Federer land in the same half as Rafael Nadal.
World No. 1 and six-time champion Novak Djokovic shares a half of the draw with the player who defeated him in the final of the ATP Finals last November, Alexander Zverev, and floaters like Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka were all handed tricky openers.
Here are the main talking points surrounding the men’s Australian Open draw.
EARLY TESTS FOR DJOKOVIC
The top seed is gunning for a record-extending seventh Australian Open crown this upcoming fortnight but has some potential early landmines in his path with 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – returning from an injury break and showed decent form in Brisbane – a second-round candidate for the Serb, and talented teen Denis Shapovalov a possible third round opponent.
Djokovic also has both Brisbane finalists in his quarter, with in-form 15th-seeded Daniil Medvedev possibly awaiting in the fourth round and eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori a potential quarter-final rival.
OPPORTUNITY FOR FEDERER
Two-time defending champion Federer has a relatively manageable draw, with two of the three players he defeated in Hopman Cup last week – Stefanos Tsitsipas and Cameron Norrie – landing his quarter. The likes of Karen Khachanov and Marin Cilic could face the Swiss in the last-eight and he opens against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin.
TOUGH LUCK FOR THE FLOATERS
Unseeded floaters like Murray, Kyrgios and Wawrinka were always going to be a major question mark entering this draw and they all received tricky paths. Murray, who is still on his way back from hip surgery, opens against Doha champion Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Djokovic last week on his way to his title triumph in Qatar.
Home favourite Kyrgios, who is down to 51 in the world, drew fellow big-server Milos Raonic in round one, while Wawrinka takes on erratic Lativan Ernests Gulbis in his first match.
ZVEREV’S NEXT GEN TASK
If ever there was a time for Zverev to best his fellow youngsters at a major, this would be it. The 21-year-old German has been at the forefront of the Next Gen crew for the past couple of seasons and solidified his position as the leader of the group when he won the ATP Finals last November. But as much as he has proven himself on the ATP tour, Zverev only has one Grand Slam quarter-final to his name, which has led people to question his abilities in the best-of-five format. His draw in Melbourne grouped him with several players from his generation like Chung Hyeon – semi-finalist in Melbourne last year who defeated Zverev along the way – Borna Coric, and seventh-seeded Dominic Thiem, who is four years older but is still considered part of that up-and-coming group of stars.
FIRST ROUNDS TO WATCH
Bernard Tomic v Marin Cilic
Roberto Bautista Agut v Murray
Gael Monfils v Damir Dzumhur
Kyle Edmund v Tomas Berdych
Ernests Gulbis v Stan Wawrinka
Milos Raonic v Nick Kyrgios
Dominic Thiem v Benoit Paire
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS BY SEED
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Kei Nishikori (JPN x8)
Alexander Zverev (GER x4) v Dominic Thiem (AUT x7)
Roger Federer (SUI x3) v Marin Cilic (CRO x6)
Kevin Anderson (RSA x5) v Rafael Nadal (ESP x2)
Novak Djokovic believes the “face of tennis is changing” as the younger generation of players continue to step up their game in hopes of staking a claim on the major titles in tennis.
Djokovic, who returned to the top spot in the world rankings, thanks to a tremendous second half of the 2018 season, lost to just three players from the start of Wimbledon onwards last year – Stefanos Tsitsipas in Toronto, Karen Khachanov in Paris-Bercy and Alexander Zverev in the ATP Finals in London. All three are aged 22 and under.
The 31-year-old Serb looks to be back to his devastating self but remains acutely aware of the fact that the young guns are closing in, having been subjected to their threat and fallen short on those three occasions last season.
“Good,” Djokovic says with a smile when told the stat and age of the opponents he lost to in 2018.
Asked if he thinks any of those youngsters can rise to the occasion and win a Slam in 2019, Djokovic said: “There’s always a possibility and rightfully we’re kind of expecting them to be Grand Slam winners soon. Number one is Zverev obviously, who has been now top-three in the world for a couple of years in a row, winning London, winning I think three Masters 1000 events.
“He’s definitely the leader of the up-and-coming stars and the next generation. You have guys like Tsitsipas, (Dominic) Thiem, Khachanov, (Borna) Coric, these guys are showing that they’re able to challenge the top players for the top titles of our sport so for sure I’m expecting them to do well this season.
“How well? We’ll see.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 10, 2019
Last season, Coric defeated Federer in the final in Halle, the likes of Chung Hyeon, 22, and Kyle Edmund, 24, reached the semis of the Australian Open, and Zverev, 21, ended the year by clinching the ATP Finals in London.
Still, the Slams were still won by the ‘Big Three’, with Roger Federer triumphing in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal winning Roland Garros, and Djokovic taking the Wimbledon and US Open crowns.
“It’s not the first time that we’re expecting young players to challenge all of us for top positions. So far the top-three guys have been still able to keep those three positions of the world for many years, we’ll see what happens,” added Djokovic.
“But the face of tennis is changing because you’re having more challengers from the younger generation and it’s good. I embrace that, I salute that as a fan of the sport.”