Andy Murray is back hitting balls again at the All England Club, sources have confirmed, after a four-week period of rest and rehabilitation in the wake of his failed attempt to participate in the US Open.
The practices are not understood to be too intense at the moment, but there is a date in mind: Nov 7, when Murray is due to face Roger Federer in an exhibition match – Andy Murray Live – at Glasgow’s SSE Hyrdo.
Normally, such an unofficial showcase would be a bit of a hit-and-giggle, with both players trying to set each other up for eye-catching shots. Yet this is likely to be different - a telling moment for Murray, who has not played on the ATP tour since he broke down physically in his Wimbledon quarter-final against Sam Querrey.
In all probability, he will approach the exhibition with intensity. That way, he can use Andy Murray Live as a barometer of where his body is, ahead of his planned comeback at Brisbane in the first week of the New Year.
It is not so much his performance that will concern him, more the way he recovers from the exertion. Backing your performances up, day after day, is the usually the hardest thing for any ageing tennis player to do – although Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal appear to be bucking that long-established rule.
Murray is still dealing with the chronic hip problem that became a serious handicap in the wake of his run to the semi-final of the French Open in early June.
He has seen more than half-a-dozen specialists, but remains of the opinion that he can return to top-level tennis without surgery. Should he be forced to go under the knife, he would probably be out for six months, and then perhaps take another year to rediscover his best form. By which time he would be pushing 32.
After a nightmarish year that has seen Murray suffer an attack of shingles, a damaged elbow tendon and now this hip issue, it is worth looking back at an interview he gave to the BBC on the eve of Wimbledon.
"I know some of the players have been doing really well until their mid-30s recently,” Murray said, “but that might not be the case with me. Maybe the next couple of years are the last few where I have a chance to compete for the majors and the biggest tournaments.”
The next part of the interview – in which Murray said "I don't know how long I'm going to be playing for any more; I want to make the most of every tournament” – may help to explain why he was so determined to attempt an appearance at the US Open.
By travelling to New York a week early, and putting himself through some gruelling practice sessions, Murray is understood to have rejected the advice of his medical team. They would have preferred him to make a clean break after Wimbledon, taking the rest of the year off in an echo of Federer’s 2016 season.
While Murray’s aborted US Open campaign may have set him back, his recent return to the practice court does at least put him on track to feature in Brisbane. Should he go on to miss that planned comeback date, it really will be time to worry.
Meanwhile, the other British No. 1 Johanna Konta has narrowly failed to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore for the second successive year, after she announced her withdrawal from next week’s Kremlin Cup in Moscow with an ongoing foot problem.
In one sense, Konta’s luck could hardly have been worse, in the sense that Caroline Garcia pulled off an unprecedented feat – winning Wuhan and Shanghai back to back – to overtake her by a mere 185 points, right at the last minute.
From a different perspective, though, Konta is the author of her own misfortune. She had the place almost in her grasp after reaching the Wimbledon semi-final in July, but has won only two matches since then.
Konta’s foot trouble is not thought to be serious, and she has one more significant decision to make this season: whether to play in the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai – a tournament for the next-best eight players who fail to make it to Singapore - or travel to the WTA Finals as an injury back-up.