'I wish I could play forever,' says tearful Murray at Wimbledon farewell

'Wish I could play forever': Andy Murray cries as he delivers a speech at the end of his doubles match (Ben Stansall)
'Wish I could play forever': Andy Murray cries as he delivers a speech at the end of his doubles match (Ben Stansall)

Andy Murray suffered a losing start in his farewell to Wimbledon on Thursday, weeping openly in front of his adoring fans before admitting: "I wish I could play forever."

Murray, a two-time singles champion at Wimbledon, and brother Jamie were defeated 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 by Rinky Hijikata and John Peers of Australia in the first round of men's doubles.

It was the first episode of a retirement three-parter -- the 37-year-old Murray is scheduled to play mixed doubles with Emma Raducanu at Wimbledon before he retires at the Paris Olympics.

After having a metal hip inserted in 2019, suffering ankle damage this year and undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from his spine which ruled him out of singles at Wimbledon, Murray has reluctantly accepted the writing is on the wall.

His career has yielded three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic golds, a Davis Cup and the world number-one ranking.

"Look it's hard because I would love to keep playing but I can't. Physically it is too tough now, all of the injuries, they have added up and they haven't been insignificant," he said.

- 'Love the sport' -

"I want to play forever, I love the sport and it's given me so much. It's taught me loads of lessons over the years I can use for the rest of my life. I don't want to stop so it is hard."

He added: "It was obviously really special to play with Jamie.

"We never got the chance to do it before (at Wimbledon). It was a bit of a race to get out here. Physically, it wasn't easy but I am glad we did it."

Tears flowed when video tributes were paid to Murray by a number of stars including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"You were never alone," said eight-time Wimbledon champion and 20-time Slam champion Federer, the man defeated on Centre Court when Murray claimed Olympic gold in 2012.

"While you carried your own dreams, you also carried theirs."

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at the All England Club and the holder of 22 majors, said: "We were proud to play against you."

Seven-time Wimbledon champion and the winner of 23 women's Grand Slams Serena Williams told Murray: "Your golden days belonged to everybody."

Career-long rival Novak Djokovic was courtside Thursday to witness Murray's emotional evening in the spotlight.

"Sometimes it looked like you against the world," said Djokovic, the holder of 24 Slams and seven Wimbledon titles in admiration of a man born a week before him in 1987.

Murray received a standing ovation when he walked onto Centre Court alongside his brother, older by 15 months and a winner of two Grand Slam men's doubles titles.

Family members including mother Judy, father William, wife Kim and daughters Sophia, eight, and six-year-old Edie, watched from the players' box.

The famous arena has witnessed some of Murray's most dramatic moments.

His tearful 2012 Wimbledon final loss to Roger Federer was followed by Olympic gold just weeks later.

"I'm not saying I'm the most outgoing or bubbly personality, but I think people probably saw how much I cared about the sport for the first time maybe," said Murray of that defeat to the Swiss great.

In 2013 Murray claimed his first Wimbledon title, ending a 77-year wait for a British male champion, and added another three years later.

On Thursday, the former world number one was treated to ecstatic cheers even when it was announced it was his turn to serve.

- Alcaraz hails 'inspiration' -

Hardly surprisingly, Murray appeared stiff in his movement, not helped by the chilly temperatures, which dipped to 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit).

The brothers had a set point in the opener, which they were unable to convert.

They battled gamely, even leading 2-0 in the second set with Murray grimacing on serve.

Murray treated his fans to his trademark, nerve-tingling roar that has regularly bounced around Centre Court for the best part of two decades when he unleashed a winning forehand.

The euphoria was brief as the Australian pair moved towards victory.

After his emotional speech to the crowd, Murray left to a guard of honour which included Djokovic, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.

His legacy is assured, with the brightest star of tennis's new generation adding his tribute.

"Andy! Such an inspiration and example for everyone! what a career and what a legacy!," wrote defending Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz on X.