Andy Murray’s contribution to British tennis does not stop at silverware. He has been a sounding board and supporter for every other Briton on the professional tour. Which is why, in Melbourne, players such as Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta kept popping up in the interview room to describe him as an inspiration.
“For me, he’s been my biggest role model,” said Edmund, who ended Murray’s 12-year reign as British No 1 in March. “He’s Britain’s greatest tennis player ever and you could say maybe Britain’s best sportsman ever.
“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is to play doubles with him. I don’t know if that’s going to happen now. But I’ve spent more hours on the court with him than I have with any other person.
“He’s a very funny guy to be around off the court; there’s never a dull moment. If you went straight to him and asked him a particular question he would answer it as much as he could. But he’d never overload you with advice, so a lot of the stuff I learned from him just came from watching him. He’s obviously a very good worker.
“To be able to have had the experiences that I’ve had with him, he’s definitely helped my career. It’s obviously not nice to read that he’s going to be retiring. But at the same time it’s a nice to reflect on his career and see what he’s achieved. It’s been amazing.”
We heard a different perspective from Konta, a former world No 4 who understands better than most what it takes to stay at the top. Unlike Edmund, she never had the opportunity to play team tennis with Murray, or to travel out to Miami to work with him during a winter training block. But she still admires his wholehearted commitment.
“What has come through is the way he has competed throughout his whole career,” said Konta. “That is something which is very unique to him and we will probably be waiting decades for another person to be like that.
“At the beginning of his career, he was getting injured a lot and wasn’t as physically strong. He went through this phase of change, becoming a beast. I feel like he really maximised everything that he has and left no stone unturned. Not many athletes and people can say that they did that in their career. It makes me quite emotional because that’s a beautiful thing.”
Like several other WTA players who contributed their thoughts on Twitter, Konta also expressed her gratitude to Andy Murray for his support of women’s tennis. “There have been so many examples of when he has stood up for us – and not just for women’s tennis but women in general. I think he has been blessed with two daughters, and grown up with a really strong female role model in his mum. His wife is also a strong character so he is surrounded by strong women. He has put that through in the way he has voiced his opinions.”
For Harriet Dart, who qualified for her first overseas grand slam on Thursday by beating Ivana Jorovic, the news has been difficult to swallow. “I am just really sad, to be honest,” she said. “He is just so incredible and so nice. I can't say a bad word about him – it is so upsetting to see him in pain.
“He just wants all the Brits to succeed and he is so happy when they do well. It is really cool – he doesn't have to do that – it just shows what a good person he is and how much he loves the sport.”
There was a similar message from Katie Boulter, another young woman whose experience of the majors has previously been limited to Wimbledon. “When I cracked the top 100 he messaged me and was very sweet and very supportive. I think he's been that for a lot of people and every single person I know appreciates that.
“Honestly I've watched him play so many times. Seeing him win Wimbledon – and the loss [against Roger Federer] the year before that as well was pretty emotional. I think he captivated Britain with that. To see his dreams come true and give hope to others and inspire myself as well as many others is just astonishing.”
Billie Jean King added her tribute, writing on Twitter: "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 and your family."
German player Andrea Petkovic told reporters: "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."
Murray is a well-respected and popular figure in the locker room, and his friends and rivals were quick to add their tributes.
Grigor Dimitrov said: "For sure he will be missed. He's been a great friend above everything.
"His sense of humour at times is so weird but I enjoy it. We just recently had dinner in Brisbane. He's overall a great guy, great competitor, loves the sport, gave so much to the sport and proved that with hard work everything is possible.
"I really wish him the best because it's also a new beginning for the rest of his life. I just hope he can finish at his favourite tournament at Wimbledon."
Juan Martin Del Potro, who can empathise more than most with Murray's injury struggles, urged the Scot not to give up.
He wrote on Twitter: "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."
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. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing. 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. Which leaves me big fella.. these are a couple photos, that should make you smile and think, I was actually a little bit of a younger brother to you. Anyways, I just want you to know, and I’m sure you already do, everyone wants you to keep fighting and to keep being you. Goodluck at the Australian Open muzz, I’ll be behind you. #onelastdance ��������
A post shared by Kygs (@k1ngkyrg1os) on Jan 10, 2019 at 10:46pm PST
Nick Kyrgios, who struck up a somewhat unlikely friendship with Murray, paid an emotional tribute on Instagram, saying: "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. You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour, and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing.
"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."