Serena Williams made a winning return to tennis after almost a year out of action as she reached the second round of the AEGON Championships at Eastbourne in the UK today.
The former world number one has been sidelined since winning Wimbledon last year, first by a severe cut to her foot and then by multiple blood clots which she said left her “literally on (her) deathbed”.
She made a dreadful start, losing the first set 6-1 to Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova, but battled back to complete a 1-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and four minutes on centre court.
“I’m a little rusty, but I really enjoy playing here and being back on grass,” the American said.
“I’m just taking it one day at time, I hope you guys enjoyed the match and come back out and give me a little cheer, because I really need it and I’m so happy to be back.”
Another former world number one, Ana Ivanovic, saw off Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-4 6-3 despite a first serve percentage of just 46%.
Fourth seed Francesca Schiavone had to battle through a long first set tie-break but then accelerated past Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 7-6 (9/7) 6-1.
Britain’s Elena Baltacha enjoyed a comprehensive 6-2 6-1 win over France’s Aravane Rezai, and will now have the chance to test herself against third seed Viktoria Azarenka.
Marion Bartoli of France came through a final set tie-break to beat Czech Lucie Safarova, a finalist in Copenhagen last week, 6-3 3-6 7-6 (9/7) while Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova beat Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-1 3-6 6-4. But Makarova’s compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova suffered a 7-6 (11/9) 6-4 upset against fellow 19-year-old Bojana Jovanovski from Serbia.
In the men’s draw, German veteran Rainer Schuettler upset fifth seed Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 6-2 in less than 58 minutes.
Schuettler broke once in the first set and twice in the second to set up a second round clash with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a 7-5 6-1 winner over Russian Evgeny Kirillov.
There was disappointment for the home hopefuls in action, with Alex Slabinsky beaten 7-5 6-3 by sixth seed Kevin Anderson and Dan Cox crashing to a 6-1 7-5 defeat against American qualifier Donald Young.
Lucky loser Illya Marchenko, a replacement for absent eighth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, hammered Portugal’s Frederico Gil 6-1 6-3.