Andy Murray is the “greatest we have ever had” says “devastated” BBC tennis presenter Sue Barker after the Briton revealed he plans to retire this year.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray, 31, is being forced to quit because of a hip injury.
The Scot will play at next week’s Australian Open but admitted it could be the final tournament of his career.
“To watch him this morning in tears in that media room, it just shows what it means to him,” Barker told the BBC.
“It is the realisation that he is facing the fact that his career is coming to an end sooner rather than later.”
Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray, who has also won two Olympic titles and been a world number one, made the announcement in an emotional press conference in Melbourne on Friday.
He said he continues to be in “serious pain” as tries to return to the sport following surgery on his right hip a year ago, and while he wants to play Wimbledon this summer before retiring, he admits that might not be possible.
“Having seen the footage of Andy training in Philadelphia, jumping over these obstacles in the gym, it looked as though he was getting back to full fitness,” said Barker.
“I was a little disappointed in the tournament he played in Brisbane, then I heard he only won a couple of games against Novak Djokovic and I felt it was all going downhill.”
‘I was crying for weeks’ – Barker on what is to come for Murray
Barker, who won the French Open in 1978, knows first hand the emotions Murray is feeling having retired from tennis in 1984 after suffering recurrent injuries throughout her career.
She said she was “so, so sad” that Murray was having to end his career in the same way, admitting she wishes “every day” she still played.
“You want to do it on your own terms – not to be forced out because your body breaks down,” she said.
“I had to quit because of injury and I was crying for weeks. I used to wake up in the morning and think ‘what am I getting up for now?’.
“Every day had been planned around tennis, whether it was training, nutrition, playing, or travelling, it was my passion.
“I loved my career, and so I know for Andy it is going to be devastating. That is why he is so emotional about it because suddenly something that has been a huge, huge part of your life has been taken away, and I’m not sure how you ever replace that.
“For me, I still wish every day that I could play tennis again. It’s such an incredible, wonderful job to have.”
‘He’s an unbelievable athlete’
Murray’s first Grand Slam title came at the US Open in 2012 but prior to his maiden Olympic triumph later that summer, he had been dealt a heavy blow when he lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer.
But just 12 months later, he ended the 77 years of hurt since a British man had last won the Wimbledon singles title, eventually beating Novak Djokovic having let three championship points slip from his grasp.
“The way he dealt with the pressure, and it was immense pressure, to win back in 2013, I just don’t know how he did that,” said Barker. “It was a moment we will all remember forever.
“He is definitely the greatest we have had. The manner in which he has won matches, when he looks like he is down, he manages to find a way to win,” Barker said.
“He’s a great competitor and he is an unbelievable athlete.”