Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray often showed his appreciation for his counterparts on the Hologic WTA Tour throughout his playing career — from centering female players when discussing tennis records in interviews, to hiring Amélie Mauresmo as a coach in a trailblazing move a decade ago.

On Thursday at Wimbledon, after he and his brother Jamie Murray were beaten in the first round of men’s doubles, past and present stars of women’s tennis gave some of that love back to Murray, as they were among those who gathered to pay tribute to the Scot’s Hall of Fame-caliber tennis career.

“It was really nice that they stuck behind because we did finish quite late,” Murray said. “I know some of them have had matches today. They might want to get themselves off to bed and recovering. It was really nice that they stayed around.”

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Having hinted that this season would be his last as a player as early as February of this year, the 37-year-old essentially confirmed it as such when he withdrew from the men’s singles draw earlier this week as a consequence of back surgery he had less than two weeks before the start of the tournament.

While Thursday’s 7-6(6), 6-4 loss alongside his elder brother was not Murray’s final match at most probably his final Wimbledon — he’ll team with Emma Raducanu in what the 2021 US Open champion dubbed a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity in mixed doubles later this week — the All England Club brought out the star power to salute the man who broke a 77-year drought for a home Wimbledon champion on the men’s side in 2013.

Former World No.3 Sue Barker, who stepped down as the tournament’s longtime presenter after the 2022 tournament, was brought out of retirement to lead the special Centre Court ceremony, which featured a video tribute with narrations by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams, as well as a gathering of active and past major champions — including Conchita Martinez, Martina Navratilova and Iga Swiatek. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found in the house, as a standing ovation brought Murray to tears, and even Navratilova shed a few, too.

Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams, who is credited with helping bring about equal prize money for men and women at the grass-court major two decades ago, highlighted Murray’s character as an ally to the cause of gender equity.

The love also poured out from players on social media. Serena Williams, who played mixed doubles with Murray in 2019, posted a heartfelt video message, celebrating his charisma, career and his unwavering support of women’s tennis.

“I also hold a special place in my heart for you because you always speak out so much for women and everything that women deserve,” Serena said. “You were the leader for that. The things you said about myself and Venus, how we were so inspiring and what we meant to you, it went a long way in my heart. I will always be grateful for that.”

Leading the charge for the current players on the Hologic WTA Tour was World No.1 Iga Swiatek, who beat Petra Martic earlier in the day before returning to Centre Court to take part in the ceremony. The 23-year-old hailed Murray for his advocacy, saying that WTA players “couldn’t wish for better support for women’s tennis.”

“Thank you for everything, it was a privilege to stand on Centre Court tonight,” Swiatek wrote. “Congratulations on your amazing career. You are amazing.”

Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina also chimed with posts in tribute, with Kasatkina admitting that she, too, shed a few tears.

“Idk [I don’t know] if I’m in tears from sadness or laughing,” she wrote.

Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also saluted Murray.

With their mixed doubles opener not on the schedule for Friday, Murray and Raducanu will likely take to the court on Saturday against Zhang Shuai and Marcelo Arévalo of El Salvador.

“My doubles record isn’t exactly the longest, or the most vast, but I couldn’t say no,” Raducanu said Wednesday after beating Elise Mertens in the second round of the singles event. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It’s a dream of mine since I was a young girl, since watching the Olympics. Andy’s a hero to all of us. So for me, it’s a real gift and it’s a real honor that he asked me and it’s a moment that I could never say no to. And I’m just super excited to be on the mixed doubles court and hopefully learn a thing or two about coming to the net or something.”

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