Andy Murray's comeback will effectively be over if he fails to recover from his latest injury setback, a leading hip specialist has warned.
Murray, 32, who has not played since November, announced on Thursday that he is withdrawing from two events next month with the pelvic problem which forced him out of the Australian Open.
Giles Stafford, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who has closely monitored Murray's return, told the PA news agency: "If it doesn't get better then it might be the end of what Andy is hoping to achieve.
"It will limit his comeback. He might be able to play doubles but singles could be too much for him. So it is obviously a concern going forward.
"With regards as to how things develop, if the injury doesn't improve, or when he returns to playing and the problem comes back, then obviously he has to think about where he goes from there."
It was first felt that Murray's injury, which surfaced at November's Davis Cup finals, was only minor.
But the three-time major winner sparked concern when he withdrew from the opening grand slam of the year before then revealing he would play no part in next month's tournaments in Montpellier and Rotterdam.
And Stafford believes the bone bruising is linked to Murray's hip resurfacing surgery at the start of 2019.
"It is claimed that Andy's hip implant has a better range of motion than a standard conventional replacement and it actually doesn't," said Stafford.
"One of the problems with it is that it has a reduced range of motion because you save the native neck of the femur just under the ball. That can dig into the prosthetic metal cup earlier than a normal hip replacement would.
"I am guessing the issue with Andy is that he is pushing a lot of force through the hip, and I imagine what is happening is that his native femoral neck is hitting up against the metal cup and causing a lot of bruising on the thigh bone.
"The problem is that over time the metal cup can carve a notch in the bone just under the ball, and if that carries on it can predispose the bone to breaking.
"If that is the case, he will have to change certain aspects of the way he moves, and getting down to the ball and things like that could become an issue. They are just waiting for the bruising to improve but that could take months."
Speaking on Thursday, Murray, who won his first ATP title following hip surgery in Antwerp in October, said: "The bone bruising is taking longer to heal than first thought, so I won't be playing in Montpellier or Rotterdam in February.
"I don't want to rush anything or put a timeline on my recovery. I'm going to listen to my body and step back on the court to compete when the time is right."