MELBOURNE, Australia — Still struggling with a hip injury that has limited him since June 2016, Andy Murray announced Friday that he would retire after this year’s Wimbledon — if not sooner.
Murray said that his decision to end his playing career this year had come during his off-season training in December.
“I spoke to my team, and I told them, ‘I cannot keep doing this,’” Murray said in an emotional news conference in Melbourne. “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 stop playing. But I am also not certain I am able to do that.”
Murray, 31, became the first British male singles champion at a Grand Slam tournament in 76 years when he won the United States Open in 2012. He won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 and won Olympic gold medals in singles in 2012 and 2016. Murray reached the ATP’s No. 1 ranking for the first time at the end of the 2016 season, holding on to it through Wimbledon the next year.
A counterpuncher who wears down opponents through his elite physicality and guile, Murray earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working players of his generation. He is popular among his peers for an off-court affability that provided a striking contrast from his often ornery on-court demeanor. Murray was particularly admired by many in women’s tennis for his vocal support of their tour and his decision to hire Amélie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014.
Though often in the shadow of the others in the Big Four of men’s tennis — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — Murray is considered by many the greatest sportsman in Scottish history. He was knighted at 29.
Just two years later, with a ranking of 230 after the injury layoff, Murray accepted his mortality in the sport. The weight of the decision was obvious in his news conference on Friday, when he broke down after the opening question: “How are you feeling, and how is the hip injury?”
“Yeah, not great,” Murray said, his voice quavering. He then sighed and let his emotions flood in, and left the interview room for about three minutes to compose himself.
“Yeah, not feeling good,” he said when he returned. “Obviously, I’ve been struggling for a long time. I have been in a lot of pain. Well, it’s been probably about 20 months now.
“I have pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better, and it hasn’t helped loads. I’m in a better place than I was six months ago but still in a lot of pain. Yeah, it has been tough.”
Murray said he still planned to play at the Australian Open, where he is a five-time runner-up. His first match will be Monday against 22nd-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut.
Murray’s outlook in Melbourne looked bleak even before his announcement. In a practice match Thursday, Murray was thrashed by his longtime rival Djokovic, who led 6-1, 4-1, before their time slot on the court ended.
“I can still play to a level — not a level that I’m happy playing at,” Murray said on Friday. “It’s not just that: The pain is too much, really. I don’t want to continue playing that way. I think I have tried pretty much everything I could to get it right, and that hasn’t worked.”
Murray had hip surgery last January, and he said he had seen his Melbourne-based surgeon on Thursday. He said that although the operation had helped, it had not alleviated his pain, which he said had been the “driving factor” in his decision.
“I can play with limitations, that’s not an issue,” Murray said. “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.”
Asked if the Australian Open could be his last tournament, Murray paused and wiped away tears again.
“There’s a chance of that, for sure,” he said. “Yeah, like I said, I am not sure I am able to play through the pain for another four or five months.”
Murray said that his injury had also taken an emotional toll.
“I have talked a lot, way too much, about my hip for 18 months,” Murray said. “It’s a daily thing. It isn’t just people I work with that ask me; it’s everyone. So everyone I bump into, that is all I talk about it. It’s pretty draining.”
Murray said that he had spoken “not loads, but a number of times” with psychologists about his injury.
“But nothing helps because you are in lots, lots and lots of pain,” he added. “You cannot do what it is that you want to do, and you love doing. Or I can do it, but it’s not fun or enjoyable doing it anymore.
“That is what I have done. I have tried to deal with it, talked about it, but none of that makes my hip feel better, unfortunately. I wish it did, because if it did, it would be feeling brilliant right now. But it doesn’t.”