Andy Murray was comfortably beaten 6-2 by Roberto Bautista Agut in a one-set exhibition match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Dubai.
The British number one has not played competitively since Wimbledon in July 2017 due to a season-ending hip injury but looked very rusty less than three weeks before the Australian Open.
Despite six months of rest and rehabilitation, his movement appeared hesitant and stilted as the Spaniard Bautista Agut easily outmanoeuvred him.
Murray showed some fight to win a 12-minute service game at 1-5, and saved three match points, but looked worryingly short of his best. Nonetheless, the Scotsman travelled on to Brisbane on Friday night to take part in the Australian Open warm-up tournament.
The former world number one, now ranked 16, said: "I felt better as it went along - obviously a bit slow at the start. Roberto is one of the best players in the world and when you haven't competed for a long while it takes time to get back up to that pace.
"I started to feel a bit better towards the end, but I'll need to keep improving for sure."
Murray was himself a late replacement for Novak Djokovic, who withdrew with an elbow injury.
With Rafa Nadal missing Brisbane due to a knee complaint, fans hoping to see tennis’s ‘Big Four’ back together in Melbourne could be disappointed.
Only Roger Federer, who competes in the Hopman Cup in Perth this weekend, is currently injury-free among the men’s game’s biggest stars.