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Tennis News From Alix Ramsay In Melbourne | Andy Murray Discussing Retirement As He Gives Interview

Andy Murray speaks to the media during a press conference at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, 11 January 2019. EPA-EFE/DANIEL POCKETT



By Alix Ramsay


Eleanor Crooks, the tennis correspondent of the Press Association in the UK, thought she would start with the easy question first. Start soft and slowly work from there. Little did she know.


“How do you feel and how is the hip?” she asked quietly of Andy Murray three days before the start of the Australian Open. Murray managed a two word answer and then he was off. “Not great,” he answered before pausing, pulling his hat down further over his eyes and then leaving the room in tears.


This is it, then. This is the end of the road for the Scot, the three-time grand slam winner, double Olympic gold medallist, Davis Cup winner, five-time Australian Open finalist and former world No.1. For nearly two years, he has been doing everything in his power and everything that medical science suggests to find a cure for his ailing right hip. And it hasn’t worked. Murray is still in pain, he is still restricted in his movement and he simply cannot take any more. What the mighty Ms Crooks did not know when she asked that question was that Murray had realised last month during his winter training block that he could not go on. He was being forced to retire.


“In the middle to the end of December, I spoke to my team, and I told them ‘I can’t keep doing this’,” Murray said, now a little more composed but only just. “I needed to have an end point because I was sort of playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop. I felt like making that decision. I said to my team, ‘look, I think I can get through this until Wimbledon.’ That’s where I would like to …” and then he paused again to hold back the tears. “That’s where I would like to stop playing. But I am also not certain I am able to do that.”


A year ago, he underwent surgery in the hope that he could squeeze another couple of years out of his hip. At first, he thought it had worked – the messages coming out of the Murray camp back then were positive. But as soon as he started increasing the load on that fragile hip, the greater the pain became. The joint is knackered; he cannot harm it further by playing on. But he cannot bear the pain any longer. To go out at Wimbledon would be the perfect end to what has been an imperfect couple of years but Wimbledon is a long and painful way away.


It means that Murray’s match against Roberto Bautista Agut on Monday in the first round of the Australian Open could be the last match that he plays as a professional tennis player. The greatest player Great Britain has ever produced may limp away from Melbourne Park for the last time, never to be seen again as a competitor, much less a contender, at a major tournament.


“I think there’s a chance of that, for sure,” he said after a long pause to wipe away his tears. “There’s a chance of that, for sure. Yeah, like I said, I am not sure I am able to play through the pain for another four or five months. I have an option to have another operation, which is a little bit more severe than what I have had before: having my hip resurfaced, which will allow me to have a better quality of life, be out of pain. That is something I’m seriously considering right now. Some athletes have had that and gone back to competing. But there are obviously no guarantees with that, and it is not something…the reason for having an operation is not to return to professional sport, it’s just for a better quality of life.”


This is the part of the story that no one really knew (mainly because Murray simply would not tell us). Yes, everyone could see him wince and grimace as he flung himself around the court in the 14 matches he has played since his comeback began last summer. And, yes, we have all watched his painful and awkward gait as he walked gingerly between points. But when we did not know was the one of the fittest men on the tour was struggling to do the simplest of everyday tasks.


“You guys see me running around a tennis court, walking between points, I know it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look comfortable,” Murray said. “There are little things, day to day, that are also a struggle, yeah it would be nice to be able to do them without any pain, putting shoes on, socks on, things like that. That’s the main reason for doing it [having a second operation].


“If I was to have an operation for that, I would rehab correctly, do it properly to give my hip the best chance as being good as it can be. But I am also realistic knowing that’s not an easy thing to come back to or play professional sport to a high level. I mean it has been done, Bob Bryan had this operation post-Wimbledon last year and he is back playing. I have had lots of communications with him about it. There is a difference between singles and doubles in terms of the physicality and the movement. Certainly no guarantees there.”


The only certainty is that just as in his playing career, Murray has left no stone unturned in his search for success. With a racket in his hand, he tried everything and anything to make himself stronger, smarter and faster and that dedication brought him 45 career titles and more than $61million in prize money. In his search for a cure to his hip problems, he has also done anything and everything but, this time, he was to be defeated. His career was to be taken from him and there was nothing he could do about it. No wonder it hurt.


“I have a severely damaged right hip,” he said simply. “Having the operation last year was to give it the best possible chance of being better. I have been playing with hip pain for a number of years, it wasn’t as if it had just started at the French Open after my match against Stan. It got to a level where I didn’t recover from that match, pushed it over the edge. Having the operation would hopefully make it as good as possible. It didn’t help with the pain at all.


“That is the thing I have been struggling with. Like the walking, there are certain things on the court I cannot really do properly now, but the pain is the driving factor. I can play with limitations, that’s not an issue, it’s having the limitations and also the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing, training or any of the stuff I love about tennis.”


He loves tennis more than he knows how to express. It has been his life for most of his 31 years but now the affair is coming to an end. Watch Murray closely and carefully on Monday; it may be the last time you see him on a tennis court. And for us Brits, it could be the last time we ever see his like again. We are going to miss him.


Editor’s Note: Alix Ramsay just travelled 40 hours to get from the U.K. To AO (Melbs) She was greeted with this interview. She is one of the tennis world’s greatest writers. This had to hit her hard. It hits us hard. We watched Andy closely in 2017. We watched him barely be able to walk at  the practice courts lugging his racket bag. It was a sad sight at Aorangi park (Wimbledon’s practice courts) daily we figured he would ring the refs office and say he couldn’t play that year. But he didn’t. 

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