Serious question marks remain about Andy Murray's fitness ahead of the Australian Open after he was beaten 6-2 by Roberto Bautista Agut in a one-set exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
The Scot, who is working his way back from hip problems, stepped in after Novak Djokovic's own Melbourne hopes were plunged into doubt when he was forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship having experienced more pain in his elbow.
But Murray was sufficiently happy with how he felt during the contest to stick to his plan to head to his scheduled comeback tournament in Brisbane next week.
The two-time Wimbledon champion left the court in Abu Dhabi and travelled to the airport for a flight to Australia on Friday evening.
Murray has given little away either about the precise nature of his hip injury or his recovery but delaying his departure to Australia, having originally intended to travel before Christmas, did not send a positive message.
The 30-year-old had planned just to practise with the players competing in the tournament in Abu Dhabi but he answered the organisers' call following Djokovic's withdrawal.
That in itself seemed positive, but from the start it was clear Murray was well short of his best.
The limp that was such a talking point at Wimbledon was still very much in evidence and his movement was hampered when dragged out wide on his forehand side.
A helpful net cord allowed Murray to get on the board in the fifth game when he had faced points for 5-0, and he did improve in the latter stages.
The Scot said in an on-court interview broadcast by Eurosport: "I felt better as it went on. I was a little bit slow at the start. Roberto is one of the best players in the world and when you haven't competed at this level for a while it takes a long time to get back. I need to keep improving for sure."
Some rust was, of course, inevitable, and Bautista Agut is a high-class competitor with a match already under his belt, but Murray must now assess whether his fitness is good enough to compete at the Australian Open in just over two weeks' time.
Like Murray, Djokovic has not played a competitive match since Wimbledon and had been due to make his comeback with a semi-final against world number 20 Bautista Agut.
The Serbian admitted he could be forced out of the new year's first grand slam after suffering a dispiriting setback.
In a statement on his official personal website, Djokovic said: "I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Unfortunately, in the past few days I started to feel pain in the elbow and after several tests, my medical team has advised me not to risk anything, to withdraw from the tournament and to immediately continue with the therapies.
"Now I need to accept this situation, and to wait for the results of the therapies, in order to start playing tennis again and getting back to full rhythm.
"This might affect the start of the season and the tournament plan, but the decision will be made in the following days."
Bautista Agut will face Kevin Anderson in the Abu Dhabi final on Saturday. The South African maintained his 100 per cent record against Dominic Thiem with a 7-6 (8/6) 6-4 victory.
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