ANDY Murray further postponed his return from hip surgery last night – but spoke with cautious optimism about his hopes of featuring at Wimbledon next month. While the 31-year-old reluctantly announced his withdrawal from the Rosmalen tournament in Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands where he had been scheduled to make his first competitive appearance in just less than a year, there was a rare shaft of light for his army of supporters when he said he was “still aiming to play in the coming weeks”.

Having said that, time is clearly running out. As his mum Judy had first revealed on Monday, Murray has been back on the practice courts in the last few days for the first time since suffering a set back in his rehabilitation during April.

He will make a late decision on whether he will participate at traditional SW19 warm-up, the Fever Tree Championships at Queen’s Club, once he sees how the joint responds in the next week to ten days.

Finally undergoing hip surgery in Australia at the start of January after a couple of false starts, the Scot still hasn’t played any competitive tennis since losing bravely in five sets to Sam Querrey of the USA in the SW19 quarter finals last year.

“It is with regret that I won’t be ready to play in Hertogenbosch,” said Murray last night. “I was excited to play there for the first time, but I am not quite ready to return. I am still aiming to play in the coming weeks, but I want to be 100% when I do return.”

Updates from the 31-year-old himself have been so infrequent that it was something of a relief just to hear from the Scot in his own words. Speaking at a sponsored interview as he test drove a Jaguar car yesterday morning, Andy had elaborated on his rehabilitation timetable, admitting he had been out of action far longer than he or any of his team had envisaged at the outset. Rehabilitation had been a slow, frustrating progress.

It was only after 11th hour changes of heart against competing at first the US Open and then the Australian Open, that he was convinced about the merits of going under the knife, while plans to test the joint at LTA Challenger events in Glasgow and Loughborough had been shelved due to a setback in practice.

“It’s been very slow,” said Murray last night. “I’ve been out for getting close to a year now which is a lot longer than I think me or any of my team expected at the beginning.

“But I’m getting closer to playing again,” he added. “I’ve started training a few days ago and I’m hoping to make my comeback during the grass court season.”

Already touch and go for Queen’s Club, a tournament where he has racked up a record five titles, Murray will find that the tennis world has continued to turn in his absence even if he makes it onto the start line for Wimbledon on July 2.

Normally one of the main contenders for the title, suddenly he finds himself ranked outwith the top 32 seeds, the Scot will have no protection from the vagaries of the draw and could be subjected to one of the big guns such as Roger Federer right out of the gate.

“I’m hoping I will be there [in contention at Wimbledon]” Murray said yesterday, “but Roger Federer has obviously got a phenomenal record on grass. He’s won eight times at Wimbledon so he’ll definitely up there as one of the favourites. But you never know, it depends a little bit on the draw.”

One Scot who will definitely be in action at SW19 this summer is Murray’s young protege, Aidan McHugh. The 17-year-old, an Australian Open boys semi-finalist, will be hopeful of making a charge in the boys singles at Wimbledon, even if his singles run at the French Open came to a narrow defeat to home favourite Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc.

There was better news yesterday, though, for the teenager who is signed up with Murray’s 110 Sports Management company. He moved through to the second round of the junior doubles with his partner Timfey Skatov of Kazhakhstan after a 6-2, 6-4 win against Yishai Oliel and Will Woodall of USA.