Andy Murray has pulled out of the Brisbane International after suffering a setback in his battle with a long standing hip problem. It will come as a massive blow for tournament organisers who have already seen Rafael Nadal pull out of the event with a niggling knee injury.
Murray's 2017 campaign was riddled with a series of injuries which affected his overall game and prevented him from reaching the heights he did in 2016. He won just one title and struggled to stay fit during the course of the year.
He started the recently concluded year at the top of the men's singles ranking, but has now dropped out of the top 10 in the world after ending his season early following his quarter-finals loss at Wimbledon, with the hip problem ruling him out of the US Open.
Murray had hoped the worst was behind him as he began his preparations for the 2018 Australian Open but him pulling out of Brisbane does not bode well for his chances of being ready in Melbourne.
"It's disappointing that Andy can't continue. It's disappointing for him because I know how much he wanted to play here as well," tournament director Cameron Pearson told the ABC. "He's done his best to be ready for the tournament but hasn't quite come up. He's doing everything he can to play again.
"I had a long chat with him and he's really looking forward to getting his body right and playing in Melbourne."
The tournament was meant to be the scene of Murray's comeback but it remains to be seen if he is able to work his way into a better shape before the first Grand Slam of the Year begins on 15 January.
Murray says he is now also considering surgery to address the issue, but currently views that as a "secondary option". He wrote on Instagram: "Having played practice sets here in Brisbane with some top players unfortunately this hasn't worked yet to get me to the level I would like so I have to reassess my options.
"Obviously continuing rehab is one option and giving my hip more time to recover. Surgery is also an option but the chances of a successful outcome are not as I high as I would like which has made this my secondary option and my hope has been to avoid that. However this is something I may have to consider but let's hope not."
Murray is the third player among the "Big Four" to pull out of tournaments leading up to the first major of the year with Novak Djokovic also opting out of the Qatar Open to work on his fitness. Roger Federer, the only player to have had any competition leading to the tournament, has recently revealed that he expects two players to pull out of Melbourne through injury.
"So far maybe it's precautionary. I hope that they all get back at the same time but something tells me that probably two guys out of the five, six that have been injured for a while now, probably won't make it because it seems too many guys are fighting something," Federer said.