Andy Murray praise pours in but Novak Djokovic thinks he could be back next year

Andy Murray was lavished with praise after admitting defeat in his bid to play singles one last time at Wimbledon – but Novak Djokovic would not be surprised to see him back next year.

The Scot has said the Olympics in Paris later this month will be the final tournament of his illustrious career.

He had hoped to make a farewell appearance in singles but pulled out on Tuesday morning after failing to recover sufficiently from back surgery last weekend to remove a spinal cyst.

Andy Murray talks to reporters at Wimbledon
Andy Murray talks to reporters after withdrawing from the singles (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Murray will, though, be able to say goodbye to Wimbledon on the court in doubles alongside his brother Jamie.

Djokovic and Murray, born just a week apart, have been battling against each other for nearly 30 years, and such is the Scot’s never-say-die reputation that Djokovic finds it difficult to imagine him stopping.

“Obviously, very sad news for the tournament and for the tennis world to hear that he withdrew from the singles event here in Wimbledon,” said the Serbian.

“Hopefully he can get another shot at next year’s Wimbledon with singles. Knowing him, he’s going to try to do that.

“Just incredible resilience throughout all his career. Multiple grand slam winner. Legend of the game. Number one in the world. Going to play the Challenger circuit to build his rankings on clay, his least favourite surface, says a lot about his character.

“Just a huge inspiration to all the players. Doesn’t mind getting out on the court for hours every day. Incredible professional. Just his approach is something to study, no doubt.

“His will to push and see how far he can go, even with an artificial hip, is something that is just inspiring but also serves as a great example, I think, to a lot of the athletes, younger ones, that start to complain about this and that.”

It was less than a year after his second title here in 2016 that Murray began to experience the hip problems that would derail him in his prime.

His efforts to return to the top of the game earned high praise from fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who said: “I think there’s two parts to his career: pre-injury and after injury.

“For me, the after injury part is more impressive than the pre. The way he was fighting and showed passion for the sport, he really gained followers. He really gained the love of the crowd after the injury, just really showing how much he actually loves the sport, how much he appreciates being on the court.

“Somebody who has won grand slams, was world number one, not everybody would have said, ‘OK, you know what, I’m going to accept that I’m going to be 30 or 40 in the world, but I’m going to do everything I can and going to fight for every single match, I’m going to fight for every single point, that I still can give to sport’. That for me deserves the most respect.”

Murray’s greatest impact has been on the British game, with those who have followed him universally citing the example he has set and the support he has shown for players at all levels of the game.

Harriet Dart also referenced his willingness to speak out about inequalities in tennis, saying: “He’s been such a champion on and off the court. Not only for tennis, but women’s tennis especially.

“He’s always been so supportive. I think what’s been amazing for me is, during the Covid break, we were very lucky to be able to practice at the National Tennis Centre, he was always putting so many hours in.

“For someone who’s had such an amazing career, he just goes about his business so diligently. He’s always the first person there and the last to leave. But, more importantly, I think he’s a really, really kind and nice human being.”

Paul Jubb, who was previously represented by Murray’s management company, is also a huge fan of the Scot.

“The guy is a legend,” said the 24-year-old. “I hope people don’t forget how much of a legend he actually is and the privilege we have to be around him.”