Andy Murray's bid to return to competitive tennis at the upcoming Monte-Carlo Masters appears to remain on track after he came through his first match in more than a month unscathed on Monday evening (10 April).
The reigning world number one, who has been absent since mid-March due to a right elbow injury that followed his shock second-round defeat to Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells, went head-to-head with Roger Federer in an entertaining charity exhibition match held at a sold-out Hallenstadion in Zurich.
The Match for Africa 3 event has so far raised CHF 1.4 million (£1.1m) for the Roger Federer Foundation, a charity which supports educational programmes in southern Africa and Switzerland. The fundraising campaign is set to continue for another week.
"I enjoyed it," Murray told Eurosport after a 3-6, 6-7 loss that included many comical moments, including a confident ball boy being invited to face Federer on match point.
"I haven't played a match for five or six weeks so to come out and play in front of this crowd against Roger, I appreciate him asking me to come and do this. I was trying to get it to a third set, I just couldn't quite do it."
Host Federer, who has enjoyed a resurgent year with three titles to his name already, added: "The evening was a wonderful experience. We were given a tremendous welcome in the Hallenstadion. And what makes the evening all the more special is that we were able to raise so much for my Foundation. So a really big and sincere thank you to Andy for coming to Zurich to support us."
That aforementioned elbow issue forced Murray to withdraw before the start of last month's Miami Open and also ruled him out of Great Britain's emphatic 4-1 Davis Cup defeat to France in Rouen over the weekend. However, he was able to train for several days before that meeting with Federer and remains hopeful of being fit for the European clay-court curtain-raiser in Monte Carlo.
"Monte Carlo starts in a week, so I'm hoping, if I keep progressing as I have with the elbow, to play Monte Carlo," he added. "If not then I just need to stay patient and I'll try the following week. I'm getting there, I just have to go slowly."
Speaking before his charity commitments, Murray, who was also seen hitting balls with Federer on a raft floating down the river Limmat, claimed to be "sure" that he would be fully fit for the 2017 French Open, which gets under way at Roland Garros on 22 May. He explained that the injury has chiefly affected his serve, preventing him from sending the ball down at full pace.