Novak Djokovic expressed support for Andy Murray on Thursday, despite Murray's declaration of his intention to retire from tennis this year. The two have been competitive adversaries since their youth, having faced each other 36 times professionally, including in seven Grand Slam finals.

"I wish him the best in his retirement," Djokovic stated. "However, it wouldn't shock me if he chooses to return; he's a remarkable competitor with a resilience that can be studied and taught to young athletes."

Murray withdrew from the Wimbledon singles due to an incomplete recovery from back surgery but is participating in men's doubles with his brother Jamie and mixed doubles with Emma Raducanu later in the tournament. Murray, a former world number one and three-time major winner, plans to retire after the Paris Olympics.

"If this turns out to be his final match, it's regrettable that he can't conclude his singles career on his own terms," Djokovic commented. "Playing with his brother likely adds an extra layer of emotion for everyone involved, including their family."

Earlier on Thursday, Djokovic faced a tough challenge from British underdog Jacob Fearnley before securing his place in the Wimbledon third round for the 18th time. The seven-time champion won 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, saving two break points in the fourth set to overcome the world number 277.

"I hadn't seen him play before, so there was an element of surprise," Djokovic acknowledged. "He had nothing to lose and served well. I was fortunate in the fourth set; I could have wrapped up the match in three sets, or it could have extended to a fifth."

The 37-year-old Djokovic easily won the first two sets on Centre Court against a player making his Grand Slam debut. He will next face Australia's Alexei Popyrin for a spot in the last 16.