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AFP
January 14, 2019

Pair back at Australia Open: Federer, Djokovic shocked by Murray retirement

Sports

AFP
January 14, 2019

MELBOURNE: Roger Federer admitted Sunday he was shocked that tennis was to lose "legend" Andy Murray this year while long-time friend Novak Djokovic said the bombshell news had "hurt" him.

Both paid tribute to the former world number one on the eve of the year’s first Grand Slam with Federer adding that the Scot should be "incredibly proud" of what he had achieved.

Murray on Friday admitted that his chronic hip injury had not been eased by surgery a year ago. He then choked back tears and broke down as he revealed that he hoped to end his storied career at Wimbledon, but the Australian Open beginning Monday could be his last event because the constant pain was so bad.

"I was disappointed and sad, a little bit shocked, to know now that we’re going to lose him at some point," Federer told reporters. "But we’re going to lose everybody at some point. It’s just now that it’s definite," he added, acknowledging that the era of the "Big Four" -- himself, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray was drawing inexorably to a close.

World number one Djokovic played Murray in a practice match three days ago and said it was obvious that there were serious problems. "You didn’t need to be on court to notice that he’s struggling, that he’s not moving as well as he normally does," said Djokovic, 31, who is just a week younger than Murray.

"His birthday is one week before mine. We’ve grown together playing junior events. We played lots of epic matches. Murray has won Wimbledon twice and Federer hoped the Scot could keep playing long enough to be able to say goodbye on his favourite famous grass courts.

Murray was the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years and will be remembered for battling his way to world number one in 2016 during a golden era for men’s tennis alongside Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

Murray faces a first-round clash Monday against in-form Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, seeded 22, who beat Djokovic on his was to winning the Qatar Open earlier this month.

Meanwhile Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are both gunning for a record seventh Australian Open crown from Monday, but Andy Murray will make his last appearance in Melbourne as the era of the "Big Four" draws to a close.

Number one Djokovic and third seed Federer face a stern challenge from the likes of youthful force Alexander Zverev, seeded four, who is still looking for a first major to cement his place as torch-bearer for the next generation.

But Murray dropped a pre-Grand Slam bombshell, breaking down during a tear-filled press conference as he revealed chronic hip pain means he will retire after Wimbledon -- if he can carry on that long.

And question marks remain over the fitness of world number two Rafael Nadal who pulled out of his Brisbane warm-up but arrived in Melbourne professing he was "fully fit" and promising to unleash a remodelled serve. It all means the era of the "Big Four" is almost over after a season in which Federer -- who opens his title defence against Denis Istomin on Monday -- rolled back the years on Rod Laver Arena to lift an emotional 20th Grand Slam. It put him on a par with other six-time Australian Open winners Djokovic and Roy Emerson -- although the Australian great’s victories all came before the Open era.

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