Murray pulls out of Brisbane International
TENNIS: Andy Murray thinks he is "not far away'' from being fit to mount a long-shot Australian Open campaign after pulling out of the Brisbane International because of his troublesome right hip.
Murray failed to train as scheduled at the Queensland Tennis Centre Tuesday afternoon, raising fresh concern that he would not be fit to play at his first tournament since July, as planned.
The dual Wimbledon champion later released a statement saying he was disappointed to not be playing in Brisbane.
Murray, the second seed, was scheduled to play Thursday.
The Scot did not comment on his chances of being fit to try again at the Australian Open, but it's understood he will travel to Melbourne and persevere in coming days.
A sympathetic Brisbane tournament director Cameron Pearson said he was "sure'' Murray will be fit to play the Australian Open from Monday week.
"He thinks he's not far away from what he's told me,'' Pearson said.
Murray's withdrawal adds cruelly to the casualty list afflicting the Brisbane International, which lost Rafael Nadal (knee) last week and also had Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza head for the exits after retiring from her first match with cramp.
"I came here with every intention of making a strong start to the year, but sadly my team and I don't feel that I'm where I need to be just yet to compete at the highest level,'' Murray said.
Murray had said on Sunday that he would pull out of the Brisbane International only if his hip worsened.
"I have great memories of playing here in Brisbane and I have always enjoyed competing in front of the Queensland fans, so look forward to returning in the near future," said Murray, who has not played in Brisbane since 2013.
The former world No.1 has had a stop-start preparation since he decided to pursue a rehabilitation strategy rather than opt for hip surgery.
German Yannick Hanfmann takes the "lucky loser"" spot from the qualifying rounds as American Ryan Harrison's second-round opponent at the QTC.
The tough Scot incurred the wrath of some tennis fans last year by withdrawing after the draw had been done for the US Open, which fell in such a way that Nadal and Roger Federer could not meet in a final there for the first time.
Pearson said ticket sales were good for the remaining five days of the Brisbane International despite the withdrawal of Nadal last week and the uncertainty in recent weeks over Murray's fitness.
"It's always a challenge when you lose players of that calibre from your field,'' Pearson said.
"We have both our defending champions still in the tournament, both top-five players (Grigor Dimitrov and Karolina Pliskova).
"If players are not quite ready to compete, as is the case this time with Rafa and Andy, they have to take some more time before they play again.''
Murray, ranked No.16, reportedly has a contract with Tennis Australia to also start his season in Australia in 2019 and 2020.