American tennis legend, Billie Jean King, and Raphael Nadal have led other stars of the game to pay tributes to British tennis star, Andy Murray, who announced on Friday that he could retire from the sport this year.
Murray, who has won three Gland Slams, has been struggling to overcome a hip injury that surfaced in 2017.
The former world number one broke down in tears when he confirmed that this would be his final year in the sport, even admitting that the upcoming Australian Open could be his last tournament.
In her tribute to the 2013 Wimbledon champion, Billie Jean King, a tennis great labeled Murray “a champion on and off the court.” “So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future,’ King said. ‘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.”
Also, Nadal, who has never played against Murray in a major final, but shared many battles over the years on the court with the Briton, wrote on Instagram, “You don’t know how much we are going to miss you. You are an example of a great athlete and person.”
However, Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro, who would be missing the first Grand Slam of 2019 due to injury, encouraged the world number 262 to keep fighting. He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Ivan Lendl, Murray’s former coach, who helped the Scot win two Grand Slam titles, also said: “As Andy looks to wind down over the coming months the world of tennis will lose great competitor, but he will leave a measure of true grit that we all can learn from.
“Andy always left it all out on the court and I will look back with great feelings about the years we worked together. They were a lot of fun and filled with excitement. I am honoured to have been part of his team and to have been able to help him achieve as many of his lofty goals as possible.”
Grigor Dimitrov, alongside South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, also paid touching tributes.
“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,” Dimitrov said.
“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,” Anderson wrote.
Johanna Konta, the British female number one tennis player, said the whole women’s locker room was grateful for the way Murray, who employed former player, Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, has helped their cause.
“There have been so many examples of when he has stood up for us, not just for women’s tennis but women in general,’ said the British female No 1. “He has been blessed with two daughters and he’s grown up with a really strong female role model with his Mum as well,” Konta stated.
Germany’s Andrea Petkovic echoed Konta: “He was always my favourite, and I think it will be a huge loss for tennis in general, but also for the WTA. “Because even nowadays, when you think everything is equal, you still need men, especially successful men, to speak up for women.”
Murray became the first Briton to win Wimbledon, when he defeated Novak Djokovic in 2013, to win his second major title following his victory in the 2012 US Open.
The 31-year-old will open his campaign at Melborune next week against world number 23, Roberto Bautista Agut, in the first round.