Andy Murray isn’t the youngest of the tennis supergroup referred to as the Giant 4. Novak Djokovic used to be born per week later than Murray used to be.
However it’s nonetheless rather an uncongenial marvel to understand that Murray, 31, very most probably would be the first of the exceptional quartet to retire.
Roger Federer is one way or the other nonetheless gliding at 37. Rafael Nadal is one way or the other nonetheless persevering at 32.
However Murray has been in an excessive amount of ache for too lengthy with out a reduction in view, and on Friday in Melbourne, Australia, all of those that have adopted his profession from up shut or a really perfect distance may percentage a few of his ache, too.
It used to be now not what he stated. It used to be what he couldn’t say.
Murray, like any tennis stars of his stature, has spent as a lot time in information meetings as maximum people have spent on the espresso store. They’re a man-made assemble that has change into a herbal habitat for Murray, a droll, strong-minded Scotsman with the voice that seems like a low-flying drone — a voice he as soon as referred to as “my least favourite factor about me.”
However as he sat down at the back of the desk on Friday, his cap pulled low and his lips pursed, newshounds positioned virtual recorders at the desk in entrance him to seize the phrases. There used to be quickly not anything to seize.
Requested how he and his in poor health hip have been feeling, he replied, “Yeah, now not, now not nice.”
He then sighed, avoided his look, dropped his chin, touched the invoice of his cap and his face, fought for composure and used to be not able to utter any other phrase for just about a minute earlier than after all grabbing his credential off the table and leaving the room.
Even though he quickly returned, not anything he defined then used to be just about as eloquent as the ones 45 seconds of silence.
What mattered maximum used to be all in there: the sensitivity, the humanity, the aggressive hearth decreased to anguish at now not with the ability to resolve his hip downside regardless of all of the clinical experience, monetary sources and iron will at his disposal.
Murray plans to play on, optimistically till Wimbledon this summer time, even supposing there are not any promises. He stated that this Australian Open, which starts Monday, might be the end line, and indubitably the poignancy of creating such a press release in Melbourne used to be now not misplaced on him.
Sir Andrew Barron Murray has had many triumphs in his 31 years: back-to-back Olympic gold medals and 3 Grand Slam titles, none extra resonant than his winning Wimbledon in 2013 to end a 77-year drought for British men in singles. Many other worthies, including Bunny Austin and Tim Henman, had embarked on the same quest and faltered.
But Australia is where Murray has had to face his own tennis limitations.
He broke down in tears during the awards ceremony after losing the final to Federer in 2010, but though he has, in his own words, “kept it together” since then in Melbourne, 2010 was only the beginning of the disappointment. He lost the final again in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
No other man has gone 0-5 in singles finals at the same major tournament, and he shares the blame with Djokovic, his one-time doubles partner, who has beaten Murray in the last four of those finals.
So close in age and skill sets, they first played as 13-year-olds at Les Petits As junior tournament in France. Murray won in a hurry, but they have played 36 times as professionals, more than enough to make it clear that Djokovic is the greater player.
He leads their series by 25-11 and has 14 Grand Slam singles titles (and counting). For many, the Big Four has become the Big Three. And doesn’t Stan Wawrinka have — like Murray — three major titles of his own?
Such arguments have merit: Federer and Nadal also have winning records against Murray, and there is no doubt now that in the final analysis of this golden tennis era, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will be the central figures and the statistical leaders.
But Murray earned his place in tennis’s great modern foursome, with his week-to-week consistency, his resilience, his all-surface brilliance and his ability to excel at Wimbledon with the equivalent of the Centre Court roof on his shoulders.
“Never motivated by money, only by his rivals; he didn’t need people’s respect, but he earned it,” Mark Petchey, Murray’s former coach, said in the wake of Murray’s announcement.
Murray might not have been here at all. He and his older brother, Jamie, were young students at Dunblane Primary School in their Scottish town in 1996 when a local resident entered the grounds and murdered 16 of their schoolmates and a teacher before shooting himself.
The Murray brothers survived, though not without invisible scars, and they both grew up to become No. 1 in the world: Andy in singles, Jamie in doubles.
That is a tribute to their childhood sibling rivalry, their talent and their work ethic, and also to their formidable tennis mother, Judy, a former Scottish professional player who has been a driving force with her intuition, her ambition, her sharp wit and her informed passion for the game.
Jamie, 32 and still in the top 10 in doubles, plans to play beyond 2019. Andy, at this stage, does not.
“He was a kaleidoscope of talent, of emotion, of movement, spirit and authenticity,” said Petchey, a former British player who introduced Murray to Kim Sears, who would become Murray’s wife. “He was a winner, but he became a champion. A champion not just on the court but a champion of causes off it. He leaves as he arrived. Tennis never changed him, but he changed tennis.”
Murray, in part (but only in part) because of his mother’s impact on his career, has been the rare men’s No. 1 to speak out frequently in support of gender equality and women’s tennis, whose results he actually seems to follow. He has also walked the walk, hiring a woman as a coach: Amélie Mauresmo.
That has endeared him to a wider audience and only underscored the gulf between on-court Murray and off-court Murray. Under pressure and between the lines, he has often been far from endearing: barking at his entourage, using language better suited to the Glasgow docks, and muttering, muttering, muttering as he chased perfection in a sport that refused to cooperate.
Watching him at work, it all has often seemed more a burden than a pleasure. His service motion resembles heavy lifting, and long before his hip problems became career threatening, his walk between points looked closer to a hobble.
But that was before he sensed an opportunity and sprang into action: a short ball he could pounce on for a winner, a wide ball he could chase down that hardly anyone else in the game could have reached.
Murray in his prime was above all a supreme athlete, possessed of quickness, coordination, feathery touch and selective striking power.
As recently as 2016, he had his finest season, winning nine titles and reaching No. 1 for the first time. It still seems premature to believe that he is just about done. After all, retirement in tennis has long been a euphemism for a sabbatical, and one of Murray’s peers who has dealt with pain offered words of encouragement on Friday.
“Please don’t stop trying,” Juan Martín del Potro wrote on Twitter. “Stay preventing. I will be able to believe your ache and disappointment. I am hoping you’ll be able to triumph over this. You should retire by yourself phrases, every time that occurs.”
Del Potro speaks from revel in; more than one wrist operations just about snuffed out his profession. His is a voice to be heeded. However sadly so is Murray’s, particularly when the sentiments are so tough that the phrases simply gained’t come.