Britain’s Andy Murray is planning to return to the practice court towards the end of March and could be back in action before the grass-court season.
The 30-year-old, who had hip surgery on 8 January, has not played a competitive match since Wimbledon last year.
The early stages of his rehabilitation are going well, according to those close to the former world number one.
The grass-court season starts at the beginning of June, before Wimbledon begins on 2 July.
“I’m certainly not going to rush anything,” Murray said immediately after his operation in Melbourne.
The Scot, Wimbledon champion in 2013 and 2016, has not played competitively since losing in five sets to American Sam Querrey in the SW19 quarter-finals last year.
He played exhibition fixtures against Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut before pulling out of the Australian Open in January and then deciding to have surgery.
Murray is back in the gym, where he is using weights and working out on the exercise bike and a vertical climber.
Pilates – which can aid flexibility, and is considered a useful tool in injury prevention – remains an important part of his routine, as it has been since Murray experienced back problems in the run up to his 2013 surgery.
In the immediate aftermath of his operation in Melbourne, the three-time Grand Slam champion suggested he might be back on the practice court about now.
But as he stressed in January, in a conference call with a group of British journalists from his hospital bed, he does not want to set himself rigid deadlines.
“I’m not going to try to get back as quickly as I can,” said Murray.
“And I’m going to take my time to make sure that the rehab is done properly, and make sure that the surgery is as successful as it can be.
“A lot of what the surgeons will tell you, a lot of it is down to your determination and your work ethic and how well you rehab, how much you listen and do all the correct things.”
Some warm-weather training will be on the agenda – perhaps in early April – and if everything goes very smoothly, it remains possible Murray could be back in action before the summer.
May would seem a best-case scenario, even though Murray has referred to a typical 14-week recovery period from this type of surgery (which, in his case, would be mid-April).
“I’m not interested in coming back for a specific tournament,” he said in January.
“I want to come back when I’m fit and ready to play, not to get into a situation like in Brisbane or New York, where I’m unsure when I turn up at a tournament how fit I am.
“I want to know when I come back that I’m ready.”
It will be fascinating to see whether he feels ready to put his body through any part of the clay-court season. The French Open, where he reached the semi-finals last year, begins at Roland Garros on 27 May.
But if he prefers to wait for the grass, then his first opportunity would come a week later in south-west London when the Surbiton Trophy is staged on the ATP Challenger Tour. – bbc