Andy Murray continues comeback, defeated in Abu Dhabi exhibition

— -- Andy Murray continued his return from a hip injury but fell to a comprehensive 6-2 defeat at the hands of Roberto Bautista Agut in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi.

The British No. 1, who hasn't featured on the ATP Tour since July due to a lingering hip injury, is preparing for a return to competitive tennis in the coming weeks and is hoping to be ready for the start of the Australian Open on Jan. 15.

Murray, 30, has long considered next week's season curtain-raiser in Brisbane as the perfect stage to make his return to the ATP circuit, but the one-set exhibition with Spaniard Bautista Agut suggested that the Scot still has some distance to go before he returns to top form.

Murray, who had been using the practice courts at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, had not been expecting to play any part in the exhibition tournament but was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic, who has been absent for the last six months, had been scheduled to play Bautista Agut in the exhibition tournament, but was forced to withdraw from the meeting with an elbow problem on Friday.

Murray was broken in his first two service games as Bautista Agut? -- the world No. 20 -- raced to a commanding 4-0 lead.

However, Murray showed signs of improvement as the set went on and held both of his remaining service games -- surviving three match points in the process -- but was ultimately unable to break the Spaniard.

"I felt better as it went on. I felt slow at the start," Murray admitted in an on-court interview with Eurosport after the match. "Roberto is one of the best players in the world and when you haven't competed for a long time it takes a while to get back to that sort of pace.

"I started to feel a bit better towards the end, but yeah I need to keep improving for sure."

"It was nice," Murray continued. "Obviously I was planning on stopping here for a few days to get some practice in with the guys here, and then it was unfortunate that Novak wasn't able to play.

"I was here so I agreed to play a set and was very lucky to be able to play out here in front of everyone."