Murray: Australian Open as final career tournament?

 - Alex Sharp

The former world No.1 announced that he has been forced to call time on playing professional tennis due to persistent pain in his right hip.

Normally pre-tournament press conferences are pretty standard events, but Friday was an emotional occasion as three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray revealed he is set to retire at Wimbledon.

“Yeah, not great,” admitted the tearful former world No.1, who has battled a right hip injury and then surgery for the past 20 months.

Career nearing a close

“I’ve tried everything I could to get my hip feeling better. It hasn’t helped loads, I’m in a better place than I was six months ago, but I’m still in a lot of pain. It’s been tough.”

The realisation that his trophy laden 14-year career is nearing a close came during the off-season.

“In the middle of my training block back in December I spoke to my team, I told them that I can’t keep doing this, that I needed an end point, because I can’t keep playing with no idea when the pain will stop,” reflected Murray, who insists he will play his opening round against No.22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne.

“I told them (my team) that I’ll try and get through this until Wimbledon. That’s where I would like to stop playing, but I’m also not certain I’m able to do that.”

He can't head into battle

Regardless of when the final tournament arrives, Murray will depart playing professional tennis as legend.

Having worked relentlessly on and off the court, the 31-year-old already has two Wimbledon trophies and the 2012 US Open amongst 45 career titles. Remember this has been in the most physically demanding, most brutally competitive era of men’s tennis with the dominance of the ‘big four’. 

Add on top of that leading Team GB to Davis Cup glory in 2015, two Olympic gold medals, the 2016 ATP Finals and reaching the summit of the rankings too.

Murray reluctantly had surgery on his right hip in January 2018 and the 31-year-old has acknowledged he can’t head into battle with the ability he requires and desires.

It might be a final career tournament

“I can still play to a level, but not to a level that I’m happy at, but also it’s not just that. The pain is too much really,” continued the emotional Scot. “I don’t want to continue playing that way.”

For Murray it might be a final career tournament in Melbourne, “I think there is 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,” added the 2016 Roland Garros finalist.

Like his success across the ATP tour, Murray has also shone on the Parisian clay at Roland Garros.

His Parisian debut as a teenager was a five-set tussle with local charge Gael Monfils in 2006, who edged the scoreboard 6-4 6-7(2) 1-6 6-2 6-1.

Significant moments

By 2009 Murray has reached the quarter-finals, falling to the firepower of Fernando Gonzalez in four sets.

The opening round in 2010 witnessed Murray overhaul a two-sets deficit facing French favourite Richard Gasquet in the first round.

Fast forward a year and Murray’s title pursuit was halted by the King of clay Rafael Nadal at the semi-final stage.

In 2014 another significant Murray moment in Paris was a gruelling 12-10 scoreline in the fifth set up against Philipp Kohlschreiber, en route to another semi-final run.

His 2015 semi-final showdown with Djokovic was a blockbuster, with Murray restoring parity from two sets down before the Serbian soared ahead 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 on Court Philipp Chatrier.

What a journey, what a player

However, it was 2016, the year he finished world No.1, when Murray really displayed his true champion qualities.

He navigated past the serving powerhouses of Ivo Karlovic and John Isner, toppled French hope Gasquet, before outmanoeuvring Stan Wawrinka 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 in a majestic match. Only perennial rival Djokovic could prevent Murray from lifting the La Coupe des Mousquetaires in the final.

What a journey and what a player.

It’s unclear whether Murray will play events between the Australian Open and Wimbledon, but for now it is time for the tennis and sporting world to sit back and reflect on a magnificent career by the gladiatorial Brit.