AFTER a career full of incredible highs, Andy Murray said last night he had only one major regret as he comes to terms with his impending departure from a sport that has made him a British icon – that he is unable to depart on his own terms.

The hip injury that stifled Murray in 2017 and required surgery at the start of 2018 has not recovered enough to allow him to play the kind of tennis that enabled him to win three grand slam titles, two Olympic gold medals, the Davis Cup and 45 titles in all.

In an emotional press conference at Melbourne Park yesterday, Murray said the pain had simply become too much to make it worth continuing much longer and that Wimbledon will be his last event, if his body allows him to get that far.

As the enormity of his decision began to sink in last night, Murray admitted that he was most upset that the timing of his retirement had been taken out of his hands.

“At the end of the day, it is only tennis, it’s just a game, whatever,” he began, the emotions still raw after a press conference which had to be halted as he composed himself in an adjacent room. “There is more to life than that. For many reasons, it’s been more than that for me. Obviously stopping, the way it’s happened, doesn’t sit particularly well with me. It’s not how I would want to finish playing.

“I don’t think any athlete wants that, they want to go out when they decide, not have their body telling them that that is the case. That’s the hardest part of it.”

After trying to rest the injury in the second half of 2017, Murray had a minor hip operation at the start of last year, after which he sounded positive that he would be back to competing for the sport’s biggest titles.

But it was soon apparent Murray was struggling to move around the court in the way he had done before, and more crucially, was in serious pain, day in day out.

“I think it would be a lot easier for me if it was a decision that I wanted to take, and my performance wasn’t how I wanted it and I just wasn’t as good as I was before and the young guys are better, therefore challenging for big tournaments and stuff is not possible anymore,” he said.

“But . . . I don’t want to stop playing tennis just now, I don’t feel ready, the rest of my body feels perfect. That’s the hard thing about it. It’s not like I wake up and my whole body’s sore, and just aching, and it’s too much. It’s just one problem that can’t be fixed. That’s why it’s difficult.”

Murray said he will go ahead and play the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, and that he hopes to finish at Wimbledon, hip-permitting.

But as he discussed in more depth his feelings about stopping and the injury itself, Murray admitted it is possible the Australian Open could even be his final event, if he decides to have hip resurfacing surgery sooner rather than later.

“As somebody who wants to live an active life-style, it [the hip resurfacing] is a better option for me,” said Murray, who said he will need a hip replacement eventually.

“It [surgery] was not something I was thinking about until a week ago. I was planning on playing through until Wimbledon and that was what I wanted to do.

“I said I think I can manage this because I have been playing through pain for a long time and there’s no reason I can’t do it for another five months, knowing there’s an end-point. I can be smart with scheduling.

“But when I got here I thought I am tired of it and don’t really want to have another five months of that pain really and that’s when I starting discussing having something like that done.”

Murray said he had thought about retiring many times over the past year but it was only in the last month that he could no longer see a way out.

“It was in December when I kind of made that decision and told my team about it,” he said. “It was in the middle of one practice. I had tears in my eyes and said, 'My hip is killing me. I shouldn't be continuing to go through that for nothing anymore.”

The Scot, who is due to take on Roberto Bautista-Agut, the No.22 seed from Spain, in the first round here, said his hip does not allow him to recover between matches or after training.

“In Brisbane [last week], I felt OK in the first match, not amazing, just OK,” he said.

“But next day, I felt quite a bit worse. Obviously, as a tournament goes on, the pain gets worse, so my performance drops. There's no possibility for me to do well.”

Murray was well beaten in practice by world No.1 Novak Djokovic on Thursday and he admitted he was simply not enjoying his tennis anymore.

“It has nothing to do with the result of the practice; it’s the feeling that I had during the practice, of how I’m able to play like I am, in the state that I’m in,” he said.

“You just kind of feel like helpless on the court and it’s just . . . it sucks.”