Tributes from tennis stars past and present have flooded in after Andy Murray
confirmed he would retire from the sport this year.
Murray, a three-time major winner and former world No 1, has been struggling to overcome a hip injury that first flared up during the grass court season in 2017.
He broke down in tears on Friday as he confirmed that this would be his final year in the sport, even admitting that the upcoming Australian Open
could be his last tournament.
Alongside Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal has formed part of the Big Four in this golden era of men's tennis.
The Spaniard has never faced Murray in a major final but the pair have shared many a battle over the years and following the British star's announcement, he said on Instagram: 'You don't know how much we are going to miss you. You are an example of a great athlete and person.'
Ivan Lendl, Murray's former coach who helped the Scot to two Grand Slam titles, led the tributes, saying: 'As Andy looks to wind down over the coming months the world of tennis will lose a 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.'
Murray ended the long wait for a British Wimbledon champion when he beat Novak Djokovic in 2013. That was his second major title, following victory in the 2012 US Open.
Murray won twice more at SW19, firstly in the 2012 Olympics and then at Wimbledon in 2016.
A familiar opponent over the years has been Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro and on Twitter he said: '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.'
His sentiments were echoed by American tennis legend Billie Jean King, who labelled Murray 'a champion on and off the court', and her compatriot Andy Roddick.
'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.'
Roddick added: 'I tip my cap to @andy_murray! Absolute legend. Short list of best tacticians in history. Unreal results in a brutal era... nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy.'
Murray faces Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round at Melbourne next week in what he admitted could be his final bow.
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! @andy_murray
— Grigor Dimitrov (@GrigorDimitrov) January 11, 2019
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. pic.twitter.com/0z1401hKXe
— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) January 11, 2019
Alongside him in the Australian Open draw will be Grigor Dimitor and Kevin Anderson, both of whom shared photos of themselves with Murray alongside touching messages.
'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 added.
Controversial Australian star, Nick Kyrgios, also posted a heartfelt message on his Facebook page, thanking the Scot for 'taking him under his wing' and claiming he felt 'a little bit of a younger brother to you'.
'Andy, I know you take me for a joker most of the time, but at least hear me out on this one old friend. You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways, I know this was never the way you wanted to go out, but hey it was a heck of a ride,' he said.
'You are one crazy tennis player, miles better than me, but I just want you to know that today isn't only a sad day for you and your team, it's a sad day for the sport and for everyone you've had an impact on.'
For players from these shores, too, Murray has been an icon and a mentor. Kyle Edmund has trained alongside the Scot since the age of 17 and he labelled him his 'biggest role model out of any tennis player.
'He's Britain's greatest player ever and maybe Britain's best sportsman ever. To be able to have had the experiences that I've had with him and memories in terms of training with him, and getting to know him personally, he's definitely helped my career.'
Female players at home and abroad also lined up to pay tribute to Murray, who has been an outspoken proponent of equality between men and women.
Jo Konta said the whole women's locker room was grateful for the way that Murray, who made the groundbreaking move of employing 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 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.
Germany's Andrea Petkovic followed suit, adding: '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.'