Serena Williams was "excited to be back" after completing her first match since giving birth fourth months ago.
The exhibition match in Abu Dhabi against Jelena Ostapenko was the American's first match for 11 months.
Williams struggled with her movement at first but played some fine shots in a 6-2 3-6 (10-5) defeat.
Australian Open director Craig Tilley has said Williams is "very likely" to defend her title at the 2018 tournament, which starts on 15 January.
Ranked 22nd in the world, Williams would not need a wildcard to play in the first Grand Slam tournament of the new season.
"I'm excited. It's good to be back on court, this is such a good time for me," Williams, 36, told Eurosport.
"Motherhood is phenomenal. I was a little worried out there – I looked at my camp and asked, 'Is Olympia OK?"
Williams, who gave birth to her daughter in September, had not played since winning her 23rd major singles title at last year's Australian Open.
She initially struggled to get enough power behind her serve and missed several straightforward shots as French Open champion Ostapenko claimed the first set.
The Latvian pushed her opponent wide, with Williams' movement looking sluggish at first.
However, she found more timing as the match progressed, increasing the speed on her serve and moving well inside the court.
A fine lob over Ostapenko was the highlight of the second set but the Latvian, who stunned Simona Halep at Roland Garros in April, overpowered her in the tie-break.