Murray still on track for Brisbane
TENNIS: Brisbane International organisers say they remain confident Andy Murray will be ready to make a comeback from injury, as planned, at Pat Rafter Arena next month.
British media reports emerged on Thursday casting fresh doubt over the pace of Murray's recovery from a hip injury in time for his Australian campaign.
The former world No 1 was still in London on Thursday, having returned last Tuesday from training in Miami when he tried to step up his preparations.
Murray expressed an original plan to be in Australia before Christmas but his departure has been delayed.
Inquiries by Brisbane organisers have led them to believe that Murray will fly out from London after Christmas.
As one of the top four Brisbane men's seeds receiving first-round byes, the dual Rafter Arena champion would not play his first match until January 3 or 4.
Former world No.3 Milos Raonic, whose wrist and calf injuries resulted in his ranking falling to No.24, skipped next week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi to set up a practice base in Melbourne.
Murray, 30, has not played a tournament since Wimbledon in July and became one of the five top-five players from the 2016 year-end rankings who were all sidelined well before the end of the 2017 season.
It is possible that Murray could delay his departure to Australia and play his first match at the Australian Open on January 15, but he would surely want to play an ATP Tour event before tackling the best-of-five set Grand Slam format.
Murray was not on the now-closed entry list for the doubles in Brisbane - an event that may have tempted a player returning from injury.
The Scot has been having drill sessions with coach Jamie Delgado in London, but is yet to practice with a highly-ranked current player.
One outcome would be that Murray flies to Brisbane and assesses the condition of his hip in practice at the Queensland Tennis Centre before making a final decision.
Raonic, who hit tennis balls with Australian cricket captain Stev Smith in a sponsor's promotion, said he came to Australia to focus on his preparation for the year's first Grand Slam event.
Lead-up plans for the Australian Open for both Serena Williams and Stan Wawrinka are still unconfirmed.
Wawrinka (knee) also pulled out of next week's Abu Dhabi exhibition headlined by Brisbane-bound Rafael Nadal and ATP Doha entry Novak Djokovic.
Raonic would be sixth seed for the Brisbane International, which he won in 2016, and he would be loath to scratch from an event he has played in each of the past three summers.
The big Canadian is defending quarter-final ranking points at both the Brisbane International and the Australian Open.