The Sunday Mail
The setting was the idyllic isle of Key Biscayne across the bay from Miami, but Andy Murray knew there was trouble in paradise.
It was nearly mid-December and the 31-year-old Scot had been practicing with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, when the realisation dawned that he had probably reached the end of the road.
The chronic hip condition that he has been trying to manage for more than 18 months was, if anything, getting worse. This time no amount of bloody-minded determination was going to get him through. Half an hour after Friday’s tearful press conference, Murray sat in a side room at Melbourne Park and opened up about his physical descent which, at best, might just see him continue on to the farewell he longs for at the All England Club.
“After I practiced with Verdasco I told my team in the locker room, like ‘This is it, I need to know when this is over’,” revealed the double Wimbledon champion.
“I didn’t lose the practice heavily. It was something like 7-5, 4-3. My hip was hurting and I was in pain. As the practice went on, it was getting worse and I was thinking ‘I can’t do this. What I am doing this for?’
“I had tears in my eyes and said, ‘My hip is killing me. I shouldn’t be continuing to go through that for nothing any more’.
“The same sequence was happening — as soon as I started to increase my tennis load and play matches, the pain got worse and my performance dropped and I had to rest for a few days. It was enough.”
It was against Verdasco at September’s US Open, when he fought hard for well over three hours, that Murray looked like he had some prospects, at least in the medium term. Now it is possible that the future will not extend beyond Monday. Murray still felt it was worth making this trip to Australia, but it will be his last visit as a player, barring a miracle.
Right until the end, this has been a continent of disappointment for Britain’s finest tennis player. The place where he reached five Grand Slam finals and lost all of them.
His failure to add the Australian Open to his collection might be a rare subject of regret for Murray. While Friday was not officially the end, Murray was comfortable enough with taking an initial look back on his career, and he cited two particular highlights from what is a wealth of choice.
The first was winning Wimbledon in 2016 for the second time, partly because he allowed himself to enjoy it.
The other was carrying the team flag at the Rio Olympics, where he clinched a second gold medal.
He was brutally honest in using the great athlete’s classic refrain that nothing in future will equal the exhilaration of competing on the biggest stages.
“You can’t — well maybe you can by taking certain substances — but you cannot recreate the high of winning Wimbledon or winning a Davis Cup,’ he said.
“As much as the lows like losing here for a fifth time hurt, I always had that as a motivation.
“Even in the low points it was something that gave me drive and motivation to get up and work hard.
“I don’t anticipate being able to replace that and again that’s something that maybe when I finish I will be happy, living a more stable life, but I don’t think I will be ever able to replace the highs and lows tennis has given me.’
Whenever the last match comes, be it next week or — less likely — in July, he will contemplate surgical options, which could include having his hip ‘resurfaced’.
“It was not something I was thinking about until a week ago. I was planning on playing through until Wimbledon.
“I said I think I can manage this because I have been playing through pain for a long time and there’s no reason I can’t do it for another five months, knowing there’s an end point.”
But when I got here I thought I am tired of it and don’t really want to have another five months of that pain. That’s when I started discussing having something like that done.
“I would seriously consider having an operation because day-to-day life is not fun. I can’t do stuff I would want to do, even if I wasn’t a professional athlete.
“I want to go and play football with my friends or go and play 18 holes of golf and enjoy doing that.
“Look, at the end of the day, it is only tennis, it’s just a game. Whatever.
“There is more to life. For many reasons, it’s been more than that for me. Obviously stopping the way it’s happened doesn’t sit particularly well with me. It’s not how I would want to finish playing,” he said. –Dailymail