A tearful Andy Murray on Friday announced he would likely retire this year due to severe pain from a hip injury, saying next week's Australian Open could be the last tournament of a glittering career.
The former world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner broke down at a press conference in Melbourne as he said the pain had become almost unbearable.
"I can play with limitations. But having the limitations and the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing or training," the emotional Scot said.
Thirty-one-year-old "Sir Andy" said he would like to finish at his home Grand Slam in Wimbledon, but ruefully admitted he might not make it that far.
He will be remembered as the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years and as a player who battled his way to the top in a golden era for the game alongside Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
"Wimbledon is where I would like to stop playing, but I am not certain I am able to do that," he said. "I've been struggling for a long time. I'm not sure I can play through the pain for another four or five months.
"Pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn't helped loads."
He pulled out of last year's Australian Open to have hip surgery and only returned in June at Queen's Club in London.
He ended the season at Shenzhen in September after only a handful of appearances to concentrate on working his way back to full fitness.
But he was knocked out in the second round on his return at Brisbane last week and called it quits on Thursday after less than an hour of a practice match in Melbourne against Djokovic, with his movement clearly hampered.
"I think there is a chance the Australian Open is my last tournament," he said.
While he intends to begin his opening-round match against 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut next week, how his body withstands potentially gruelling five-set clashes in energy-sapping heat remains to be seen.
One of the so-called Big Four, along with Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, who have dominated the game for years, Murray's ranking has slumped to 230.
He hasn't reached a Grand Slam final since winning his second Wimbledon title in 2016, but has nevertheless enjoyed a glittering career since turning professional in 2005, with not only three Grand Slam titles, but two Olympic gold medals and 45 ATP crowns.
Notably, in 2013 Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years, ending the nation's obsession with finding a champion to follow in the footsteps of Fred Perry.
Top Australian coach Darren Cahill, who until recently was mentoring world number one Simona Halep, said Murray was an example of the never-say-die attitude that separated the best from the average.
"When you search for examples of 'emptied the bucket to be as good as they could be' there should be a picture of Andy Murray sitting under that quote," he tweeted. "Remarkable discipline for training, competition, sacrifice, perfection, a little crazy but a legend of a bloke."
Murray said he had an option of another operation on his troublesome hip, but it was more about his quality of life after hanging up his racquet.
"That's something I'm seriously considering right now," he said.
TWO YEARS OF TEARS
June 9, 2017: Murray puts shaky form going into the French Open behind him to reach the semifinals before losing to Stan Wawrinka but begins to feel the flare-up of a long-standing hip issue that was previously under control.
July 12, 2017: Walking with a noticeable limp, Murray battles into the quarterfinals of Wimbledon but his title defence ends with a five-set loss to Sam Querrey.
August 26, 2017: After pulling out of two Masters events and losing his world number one ranking to Rafael Nadal, Murray leaves for the US Open. But two days before the tournament he announces at an emotional press conference that he is pulling out.
September 6, 2017: Murray announces he is likely to miss the rest of the year. He undergoes hip surgery in January of 2018.
July 1, 2018: Murray pulls out on the eve of Wimbledon, saying it is too soon to play best-of-five set matches.
August 30, 2018: Murray makes his Grand Slam comeback at the US Open, beating James Duckworth before losing to Fernando Verdasco.
January 2, 2019: Murray makes a third trip to Philadelphia to work with reconditioning expert Bill Knowles but a loss to Daniil Medvedev at his first tournament of the new season in Brisbane shows the hip remains a hindrance.
January 10, 2019: Murray says he has been in pain for "about 20 months" and that he will retire after Wimbledon.
What they 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.
-- Juan Martin del Potro
Congrats @andy_murray for all your achievements all these years. It was great to play against you all these years. Good luck with everything!
-- Rafael Nadal
@andy_murray is a great champion who I have the utmost admiration for. I've enjoyed following his stellar career, he is truly one of the greats of our game & a lovely bloke! Arise Sir Andy. I applaud you & wish you well in all your future endeavours.
-- Rod Laver
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!
-- Grigor Dimitrov
If this is true, 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
-- Andy Roddick
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.
-- Kevin Anderson
@andy_murray You are a champion on and off the court. So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future. 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.
-- Bille Jean King