15 Jun 2011

Serena wins first match back in almost a year

6:03 am on 15 June 2011

Serena Williams recovered from a slow start to reach the second round at the Eastbourne grasscourt tennis tournament in her first match back after nearly a year out of the sport due to injury and illness, posting a 1-6 6-3 6-4 defeat of Tsvetana Pironkova.

The 13-time grand slam champion, who last played when she won the Wimbledon final last July, returned to the court at the grass warm-up tournament after battling a foot injury and blood clots in her lungs.

Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the Italian fourth seed, took an opening win over Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 7-6 (9-7) 6-1 while Serb Ana Ivanovic, another former holder at Roland Garros, beat German Julia Goerges 6-4 6-3.

Despite her 0-5 start against her Bulgarian opponent, Williams won in just over two hours of battle with seven aces as she tries to whip a rusty game into shape.

After one particularly long exchange, the former No.1 was warned for time-wasting as she tried to catch her breath.

Williams will get another test in the second round when she faces the winner from top seed Vera Zvonareva and British wild card Heather Watson.

The Williams win was the second success for the family this week after sister Venus advanced on Tuesday after not playing for almost five months due to an abdominal injury.