Sir Andy Murray received a cuddle from his mother after a “tough day” in which he announced he will retire this year.
The three-time Grand Slam winner fought back tears in Melbourne as he announced the upcoming Australian Open could be his last tournament as he struggles to recover from hip surgery.
Tributes poured in as his legions of fans digested the announcement, including from fellow sports stars, politicians, and residents in the Scottish town where he grew up.
Hours later, the tennis star responded with a post on Instagram showing him embracing his mother Judy.
He wrote: “Best way to feel better after a tough day is a big cuddle from your mum.
“Genuinely been very touched by all of the messages and support from everybody today… It means a lot and has made me feel much more positive than when I woke this morning. Thank you so much.”
The former world number one has battled to recover from a chronic hip condition for more than 18 months, undergoing surgery in Melbourne a year ago, but he was forced to admit in a tearful press conference that his efforts have not been enough.
He said: “Obviously I’ve been struggling for a long time. I’ve been in a lot of pain for about 20 months now.
“I’ve pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads. I’m in a better place than I was six months ago but still in a lot of pain. It’s been tough.”
The Scot said he hopes to make Wimbledon in the summer, although he could not confirm that would be the case.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led praise from near and far after watching his announcement, tweeting: “Andy Murray is a legend – without doubt one of Scotland’s greatest ever sportsmen, as well as an outstanding role model and inspiration for young people everywhere.
“A credit to sport and to the country. Sending him very best wishes.”
British tennis player Kyle Edmund said: “For me he’s been my biggest role model out of any tennis player. He’s Britain’s greatest tennis player ever and you could say maybe Britain’s best sportsman ever.”
Billie Jean King added her tribute, writing on Twitter: “You are a champion on and off the court. So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms, but remember to look to the future. Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations. Much love to you and your family.”
Tracey Crouch, the UK sports minister when Sir Andy claimed his second Wimbledon title in 2016, said she was “sorry” to hear of his retirement.
She added: “He’s such a phenomenal competitor in an era of other great players, a champion for equality in sport and a genuinely nice guy.
“I think his legacy of inspiring the next generation will live long.”
He was also hailed by Labour MP Jess Phillips for being a “normal bloke, and best of all casual feminist”.
His decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014 is considered a groundbreaking moment in the sport.
Meanwhile in Dunblane, 71-year-old resident George Majury said of the two-time Wimbledon champion: “He has put us in the world news for all the right reasons.”
Questions have been raised over what will come next for Sir Andy, who already acts as an official mentor for young sports men and women through his management company.
Rising tennis star Katie Swan tweeted: “You were my biggest idol growing up and now I’m lucky enough to call you my mentor @andy_murray thank you for showing me what it means to never give up.”
The programme even reaches his beloved Hibernian Football Club, where two players are under the Grand Slam winner’s stewardship.
In a tweet from Hibs’ official account, head coach Neil Lennon said: “Andy Murray is an inspiration and a role model. He’s been the ideal mentor to Fraser Murray and Ryan Porteous.
“I hope he’s able to finish an incredible career on his terms. Everyone at Hibernian Football Club is rooting for him.”