Despite grappling with the toughest decision of his career, Andy Murray still managed to produce an amazing gesture for a complete stranger.
Murray is desperately hoping for a Wimbledon swan song later this year but concedes the Australian Open may be his last tournament, with a chronic hip injury forcing him to confront retirement.
The former World No.1 was visibly devastated as he finally succumbed to injuries that have hampered him for the last 20 months.
But just 24 hours before Friday’s announcement, he provided the perfect example as to why he’s regarded as one of the nicest guys on tour.
Murray took on Novak Djokovic in a practice match at Melbourne Park on Thursday, but was unable to finish as his pesky hip appeared to hamper him.
A smattering of adoring fans showed up to watch the tennis stars in action, with one sending Murray a message on social media afterwards.
“Still in absolute shock that I finally got to see the man behind my love for tennis in action today,” she wrote.
“If it wasn’t for Andy, I’d still be sitting at home questioning mum on how she could possibly watch a sport that is so ‘boring’.
“It was Muzza that showed me just how entertaining tennis could be and for that I thank him with my whole heart.”
The touching message struck a chord with Murray, who felt bad that the fan didn’t get to see him at his best.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more entertaining today,” he replied, before offering to organise some free tickets for her for the first round of the Australian Open.
“If you’d like to come along and watch my match on Monday and Tuesday I’ll sort you a ticket.”
Despite all the pain Murray is dealing with, he still manages to be a classy guy 👇https://t.co/YP9kCcWjx1
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 11, 2019
‘I’ve been in a lot of pain’
Britain’s only men’s singles champion in more than 80 years intends to play in the season-opening major at Melbourne Park and hopes to bid farewell to his legion of fans at The All England Club in July.
But after slipping to No.230 after last year’s hip surgery, the former world No.1 said there was a chance he wouldn’t make it beyond the Open starting on Monday.
“I’m not feeling good. I’ve obviously been struggling for a long time,” the 31-year-old said.
“I’ve been in a lot of pain for probably about 20 months now.
“I can still play to a level, (although) not a level that I’m happy playing at. But it’s not just that – the pain is too much really.
“I don’t want to continue playing that way. I’ve tried pretty much everything to get it right and that hasn’t worked.”
Murray’s triumphs at the 2012 US Open and Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 ensured he was no longer the bridesmaid of men’s tennis, cementing his status as a member of the ‘big four’ alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The Scotsman’s breakthrough at Flushing Meadows – becoming the first British man to win a major since 1936 – came after being a grand-slam runner-up four times.
A record five-time Australian Open runner-up, the hobbled champion is long odds to survive this year’s first round, having drawn 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
KEY NUMBERS OF ANDY MURRAY’S CAREER:
* 1 – Murray became the first British singles player to be ranked world No.1 (November 7, 2016)
* 41 – The number of weeks the Scot spent on top of the rankings
* 3 – Grand-slam titles
* 11 – Grand-slam finals
* 45 – Career singles titles
* 2 – Doubles titles, both with brother Jamie
* 9 – Singles titles in 2016, including five in a row to end the season as world No.1
* 2 – Olympic singles gold medals
* 11 – Murray won all 11 rubbers he contested to drive Great Britain to Davis Cup glory in 2015, an unprecedented feat
* 663 – Tour-level matches won
* $US61,055,135 ($A85 million) – Career prize money
* 3 – Only person to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year three times
* 5573 – Aces served
* 29 – Combined wins against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.