GLASGOW • Andy Murray will do all he can to be fit for the start of the 2018 season in Australia, but the latest update on his recovery from a long-standing hip injury was a cautious one as he stressed that he would not return if he was not 100 per cent ready.
There was still a visible limp at times during his 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 defeat by Roger Federer in an exhibition match in Glasgow on Tuesday, his first encounter since a quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon in July.
But Murray can take encouragement from his movement during the points - some of which Federer played in a kilt - which improved as his confidence grew.
Earlier, Murray, who became a father again last week to a daughter, was candid and expansive as he answered questions on his progress.
It was the first time he had spoken since an emotional press conference at the US Open in late August, during which the Scot was close to tears as he announced his withdrawal before the tournament.
Asked if he thought that he could get back to full fitness, the 30-year-old replied: "I believe I will, yes. When I get back on the court next year and start playing again it might not come immediately. I might not play my best tennis straight off."
There was an admission that his attempt to rush back and play at the US Open was a mistake. Hence he was understandably not prepared yet to declare that he would definitely return to the ATP Tour at the Brisbane International in January.
"I hope I'm there," Murray said. "Things have been going pretty well so far in the rehab. But you just never know, you take each week as it comes, you have setbacks and then things come on quite quickly as well.
"I probably made a mistake trying to get ready for the US Open but it was the last Major of the year and I wanted to give it a go.
"Now it's been time to give my body the rest and recovery it needs and I will come back when I'm ready."
The only question Murray chose to duck was one asking for clarification on what exactly is wrong with his hip. He said: "There are a few things going on in my hip that I don't need to talk about here.
"Surgery was not recommended for me and obviously that's great. You never know how you're going to come back from surgery. If you can go a conservative route, it's better."
Sitting alongside Murray was Federer, the 36-year-old who has well and truly reaped the benefits of taking an extended break at the end of last year. When asked to offer some words of advice, he urged patience.
"Take your time, however long it takes," he said. "When you come back, you want to be at 100 per cent, otherwise you feel you just can't beat the best at the big tournaments, so it's wise and worthwhile to take the extra week, extra month maybe."
World No. 7 Stan Wawrinka has returned to training ahead of his scheduled comeback at next month's Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event.
The three-time Slam champion last played at Wimbledon before withdrawing from the US Open and announcing the end of his season in August to undergo surgery following a recurring knee problem.
"First practice since July! Sooooo happy and excited!! Already killing the cones with the backhand!" the 32-year-old Wawrinka said on his Twitter account, along with a video of him back on the court.
Novak Djokovic and top-ranked Rafael Nadal are also scheduled to play at the Abu Dhabi event, which starts on Dec 28.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS