Novak Djokovic has paid tribute to his long-time rival Andy Murray, saying he will “always cherish our amazing matches”.
The pair, who were born just a week apart and have seen their careers mirror each other in several ways, first competed against each other as juniors 18 years ago.
Djokovic wrote on Instagram: “Tarbes, France 2001, “Les Petite As”. First time we met and played. Something was telling me back then that we’d have an amazing rivalry and experience of playing each other on the biggest stage for many years to come.
“What you are trying to do is nothing short of brave and inspiring. I met with you the other day and couldn’t really verbalise my compassion for what you’re going through.
“As an athlete, fellow tennis player and friend, I respect and fully support you every second of this Australian Open and every next attempt to compete at the highest level.
“Whatever happens, I will always cherish our amazing matches over the years and be grateful for those experiences. Big hug Andy, stay strong.”
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Murray told reporters that the Australian Open could be his very last tournament, as he continues to suffer from pain in his “severely damaged hip”, although he hopes to be able to bid farewell to the sport at Wimbledon, where he made history for Great Britain by lifting the trophy there in 2013.
Kyrgios, who has always had a close relationship with Murray, took to Instagram to pay tribute to his friend.
“Andy, I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend,” read the message from the Aussie.
“You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing. You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and for everyone you’ve had an impact on.
“Which leaves me big fella.. these are a couple photos, that should make you smile and think, I was actually a little bit of a younger brother to you. Anyways, I just want you to know, and I’m sure you already do, everyone wants you to keep fighting and to keep being you. Good luck at the Australian Open muzz, I’ll be behind you. #onelastdance.”
All the way from Argentina, Juan Martin del Potro, a player who is no stranger to the agony of injury, urged Murray to “keep fighting”.
“Andy, just watched your conference. Please don’t stop trying. Keep fighting. 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,” tweeted Del Potro.
Grigor Dimitrov also took to social media to wish Murray well, saying: “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!”
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Andy, I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend. You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing. You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and for everyone you’ve had an impact on. Which leaves me big fella.. these are a couple photos, that should make you smile and think, I was actually a little bit of a younger brother to you. Anyways, I just want you to know, and I’m sure you already do, everyone wants you to keep fighting and to keep being you. Goodluck at the Australian Open muzz, I’ll be behind you. #onelastdance 🙌🏽🙏🏽
A former world No. 1, three-time Grand Slam champion, Davis Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist, Murray has ticked every box when it comes to accomplishments on the court. But to many, he is most appreciated for the character he was among the tennis community, and his support for the women’s tour and matters like equal pay in sport.
He was a pioneer in many ways, especially when he hired Amelie Mauresmo as his coach – a decision that was met with mixed reaction from his home media. But Murray spoke out when people douted his choice of coach and made sure he called them out on their sexist views.
“@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,” tweeted Billie Jean King.
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Keep fighting Andy, you’re got a heart of pure gold! You’re most definitely one of the most liked and respected players on the tour. I know all of us girls in the locker room are in awe & so grateful for how you always fight in our corner! Thank you so much for that. You inspire me in so many ways and I don’t want you to go!! Stay strong and keep fighting 💛 it’s pretty nerve racking playing with you because you’re pretty gosh darn Awesome (with a capital A)😅 but jheez am I so grateful I have!
A post shared by Heather Watson (@heatherwatson92) on
Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who hosted Murray multiple times at his academy in France, described the Brit as “courageous”.
“Of course everyone wants him to keep on playing because of who he is, his personality. He’s one of the only guys that stood up for things that he believed in, most of the time against most of the people, and he had the courage to do that. I think that sticks to his personality, and when we mention Andy Murray, when we look at Andy Murray, that’s what I think when I see him, someone very courageous, someone who had the courage to stand for what he believes in even though most of the people don’t,” Mouratoglou told Sport360.
“And he’s an incredible champion, what he achieved, and he probably played the price of that also because the effort he made to become No. 1 was insane. He was playing almost every week, winning an incredible number of matches, fighting incredibly hard but he finally got what he wanted. At a time when you have the three most dominant champions of all time, so what he achieved is unbelievable.”
This short exchange last year on the most mainstream show there is really stuck with me.
The importance of Andy Murray’s voice on social issues in tennis reached far beyond the sports world. pic.twitter.com/Fs8pYGS1bA
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 11, 2019
The @andy_murray that I know will absolutely make it to Wimbledon to play his final tournament. Not many with more heart, effort in the history of the game. Was always a pleasure to share the court pal.
— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) January 11, 2019
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