Heartbreak, disbelief as Murray announces retirement
Melbourne - Tennis ace Andy Murray's tearful announcement on Friday that he'll be forced to retire this year prompted a volley of tributes to the man, fond recollections of a historic career and encouragement to serve up a fitting farewell.
American star Andy Roddick led the tributes to the former world No 1, describing his 11-time opponent as an "absolute legend" who is on the "short list of best tacticians" in the history of the sport.
"Unreal results in a brutal era. Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy," he said.
Murray's failure to recover from a long-term hip injury has put his dream to win next week's Australian Open almost beyond reach.
Such is the level of pain that there is speculation he may not be able to go the distance, much less set up a dream farewell at Wimbledon this July.
Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro who fell short against Murray in a memorable 2016 Olympic gold medal game - urged him not to throw in the towel.
"Andy, just watched your conference. Please don't stop trying. Keep fighting," he wrote.
"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."
The sentiment was echoed by tennis' women stars, who Murray championed - famously rebuking a journalist for glossing over American greats like Serena Williams arguing for equal billing on the centre courts.
Indian star Sania Mirza dubbed him her "foreverfavourite" and a "#foreverachampion".
Legend Billie Jean King declared him a "champion on and off the court".
"Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations."
That sentiment was echoed by Belgian four-time major winner Kim Clijsters, who like many could not help but be moved by Murray's emotional announcement.
"My heart breaks listening to @andy_murray during his press conference," she tweeted.
It is in his native Britain that the announcement will be perhaps most keenly felt.
Murray's status as the greatest British male player in several generations meant he carried the expectations of a nation onto the court. By meeting them, his impact transcended tennis.
Many hoped he can muster the strength and fitness to return to the All England Club - where he twice won in fairytale fashion - for a career finale.
"He deserves his moment to say goodbye at Wimbledon. He's too important to Great Britain and Wimbledon history to not have it," said Roddick.
"He just needs to play any match for the goodbye he deserves."
US Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish pointed to Murray's famous determination, which helped him compete against stronger and more skilled players.
"The @andy_murray that I know will absolutely make it to Wimbledon to play his final tournament," he tweeted.
"Not many with more heart, effort in the history of the game. Was always a pleasure to share the court pal."
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. ??— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) January 11, 2019
My thoughts are with @andy_murray and I really hope we continue to see you fighting on court so you can retire on your own terms. Get well soon... Tennis is better with you. pic.twitter.com/0z1401hKXe— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) 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
.@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
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 had to walk off before coming back to announce he's planning to retire because of his hip injury. pic.twitter.com/AMWP4UpkV9— ESPN (@espn) January 11, 2019
Extraordinary moment when a great sporting champion suddenly realises it's all over.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 11, 2019
Heart-breaking for @andy_murray, whose body's hit the wall.
I hope Britain's best ever tennis player gets the Wimbledon send-off he so deserves. https://t.co/FUJU2Unfxj