MELBOURNE: Brightest new kid on the block Alexander Zverev said Saturday he was sad to hear "super nice" Andy Murray say the Australian Open could be his last tournament.
Murray on Friday shocked the tennis world by declaring that his chronic hip pain had not been eased by surgery a year ago and he could end his storied career in Melbourne next week.
World number four Zverev is the flag-bearer for the next generation of stars, having beaten Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win the biggest crown of his career at the ATP Finals last year.
And he said he would always appreciate what the 31-year-old three-times Grand Slam winner Murray had done for the sport and new players like himself as they emerge on tour.
"Obviously he's one of the best guys on tour outside the court. He's always super nice to be around, super nice to kind of be in the locker room with," Zverev told reporters at Melbourne Park.
"The media always kind of puts him as a boring guy who doesn't give interviews well or something like that. No, he's actually one of the funniest and coolest dudes out there.
"We as players, well, you can see how much we really like, really appreciate what he's done."
Zverev said despite his stellar 2018 season he had little expectation coming into the season's first Grand Slam, having only ever reached one quarter-final in 14 previous appearances at the majors.
"I've never been past the third round (in Melbourne), so we'll see how it goes," said the young star who faces Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene in the first round.
"But I just want to enjoy being here. I just want to enjoy playing as much as I can. I just want to enjoy playing in the biggest stadiums, playing in the biggest matches.
"Once I learn how to really enjoy it and really find fun in what I do, I think everything else will take care of itself."
World number two Rafael Nadal has endured some epic encounters with Murray down the years and said he had felt for the Brit after his jaw-dropping, tear-filled press conference on Friday.
"Yeah, of course it is very bad news," said the Spanish 17-times Grand Slam champion.
"But being honest, when you are going on court every day without the clear goal because you cannot move well, you have pain, then is a moment to take a decision."
Nadal, 32, gave a heartfelt tribute to his long-standing rival and recognised that with Federer now aged 37 and Djokovic 31, the era of the "big four" was drawing to a close.
"It will be a very important loss for us, for the world of tennis, for the tour, for the fans, even for the rivals that have been part of a great rivalry between the best players for a long time, and a great competitor. But that's life.
"We will miss him. But today is him. Tomorrow another one. We are not 20 any more."
Nick Kyrgios had been one of the first to pay tribute to Murray on social media and told reporters Saturday: "He's a legend. Someone that everyone could relate to, especially myself. Everyone knows how sad it is."