MELBOURNE (AFP) - Tennis ace Andy Murray's tearful announcement on Friday (Jan 11) that he will be forced to retire this year prompted a volley of tributes to the man, fond recollections of a historic career and encouragement to serve up a fitting farewell.
American star Andy Roddick led the tributes to the former world No. 1, describing his 11-time opponent as an "absolute legend" who is on the "short list of best tacticians" in the history of the sport.
"Unreal results in a brutal era. Nothing but respect here. I hope he can finish strong and healthy," he said.
Murray's failure to recover from a long-term hip injury has put his dream to win next week's Australian Open almost beyond reach.
Such is the level of pain that there is speculation he may not be able to go the distance, much less set up a dream farewell at Wimbledon this July.
Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro - who fell short against Murray in a memorable 2016 Olympic gold medal game and who has battled persistent wrist injuries for much of his career- urged him not to throw in the towel.
"Andy, just watched your conference. Please don't stop trying. Keep fighting," he wrote.
"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."
The sentiment was echoed by tennis' women stars, whom Murray championed - famously rebuking a journalist for glossing over American greats like Serena Williams arguing for equal billing on the centre courts.
Indian star Sania Mirza dubbed him her "foreverfavourite" and a "#foreverachampion".
Legend Billie Jean King declared him a "champion on and off the court".
"Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations."
That sentiment was echoed by Belgian four-time major winner Kim Clijsters, who like many could not help but be moved by Murray's emotional announcement.
"My heart breaks listening to @andy-murray during his press conference," she tweeted.
It is in his native Britain that the announcement will be perhaps most keenly felt.
Murray's status as the greatest British male player in several generations meant he carried the expectations of a nation onto the court. By meeting them, his impact transcended tennis.
Many hoped he can muster the strength and fitness to return to the All England Club - where he twice won in fairytale fashion - for a career finale.
"He deserves his moment to say goodbye at Wimbledon. He's too important to Great Britain and Wimbledon history to not have it," said Roddick.
"He just needs to play any match for the goodbye he deserves."
US Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish pointed to Murray's famous determination, which helped him compete against stronger and more skilled players.
"The @andy-murray that I know will absolutely make it to Wimbledon to play his final tournament," he tweeted. "Not many with more heart, effort in the history of the game. Was always a pleasure to share the court pal."