We all knew it was coming, sooner or later.

And it’s been confirmed this week, that it’s happening if not soon, then soon-ish.

Andy Murray, the greatest sportsperson Scotland has ever produced, has confirmed he’s unlikely to continue until even the end of this year.

“I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” said Murray, in the aftermath of his defeat to Ugo Humbert in Dubai earlier this week.

The admission was forced out of Murray under some duress, rather than being willingly offered, it has to be said. 

The Scot has almost endlessly been asked about his thoughts on retirement for months, if not years.

And finally, the questions have broken him.

“I get asked about it (retirement) after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play. I’m bored of the question, to be honest,” he said.

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It’s little wonder both that Murray is the subject of so many questions on retirement, and that he’s become weary of the enquiries.

From a British, and particularly from a Scottish point of view, Murray was, by some margin, the single best tennis player we had for well over a decade.

Journalists were employed, basically, to follow him around the world.

When Murray’s tournament was over, irrespective of the round of his defeat, so was theirs. So it should come as little surprise that his thoughts on continuing, or not, have been of interest.

Similarly, while uncovering his career-plan was not in the public interest, it was certainly of interest to the public. Hence the endless questions.

As is Murray’s style, he’s allowed for some degree of interpretation in his statement.

Does his timeline of “not much past the summer” mean he’ll stop after Wimbledon in July? Or the Olympic Games in August? Or will he eek it out until the US Open in September?

The Herald: Andy Murray

We don’t know, and it’s entirely possible that Murray doesn’t quite know either.

He’s hinted that although he might well let us all know when his last match is here, we won’t know much before that.

The Scot, who’s famously understated for someone of his standing and stature within the sporting world, revealed long ago that his retirement was not going to be announced well in advance. 

When pressed on such a possibility, Murray suggested that while Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer may have the following to enjoy such a season-long farewell tour, he does not.

Most would respectfully disagree.

There have already been calls, including from his own mum, to allow Murray to simply play, without constantly probing just how long he’s got left.

“Let him enjoy whatever time is left of his career,” said his mother, Judy, on X.

Murray himself has said that he’s “not going to talk more about it between now and whenever the time comes for me to stop”.

What’s been obvious in recent months is that Murray both unfailingly loves tennis, and is producing a level that’s far below the level he was able to produce at his very best.

There is, of course, no shame in that; in his pomp, Murray was regularly beating the best the game has ever produced in Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic; winning grand slam titles, Olympic gold medals; and reaching the top of the world rankings.

Almost no one, Djokovic apart, can maintain such a ridiculously high level indefinitely.

What’s been hard to watch, and apparently for Murray himself to accept, is that his form in 2024 has been so far below what he believes he’s capable of at this particular moment in time.

Yes he’s 36-years-old and yes he’s got a metal hip but even allowing for these factors, it’s clear he believes he should be playing better than he is.

In 2024, the Dunblane man has played six matches and won only one.

I find it hard to bring to mind any athlete who’s scaled the heights which Murray has who’d be happy with a statistic like that. 

Certainly, Murray, who’s currently ranked 67th in the world, has not been hiding his disdain for his recent form.

“I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Oh God. Awful feelings. Awful feelings on the tennis court. Horrific,” shouted Murray at the coaches in his players box after a missed forehand during his 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Humbert this week. 

Feeling like that, however exaggerated it may be due to the emotions of being mid-match, is fun for no one.

The funny thing about retiring from elite sport, though, is that, as terrifying a prospect as it can be, even for a multi-millionaire like Murray, actually making a decision can be an incredibly freeing thing.

When the decision is in your own hands, and not forced through injury, as looked as if it would be the case for Murray in 2019, the elimination of uncertainty can do wonders for performance.

There is no shortage of athletes who have elevated their performance in the final few matches, or even the very last match of their career.

Murray’s hero, Andre Agassi, did it in textbook style, upsetting eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis in five sets before finally going out in the third round of the 2006 US Open.

The next few months will answer the question of whether or not Murray is able to do the same; put in a performance that’s reminiscent of the old days.

Of course, if he’s not able to, it matters not a jot; he’ll forever remain one of, if not the single greatest Scottish sportsperson ever to have lived.

He’ll go out however he’ll go out, but there’s barely a single soul in this country who wouldn’t love it to be on a high.