Tennis: Graf to play at Eastbourne

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Steffi Graf, the seven times Wimbledon champion, yesterday confirmed that she will play in the Direct Line grass-court tournament in Eastbourne from 16 to 21 June, which takes place the week before Wimbledon .

"I'm going to play Eastbourne now,'' Graf said as she began her comeback in Berlin. "It's on my list. I would have played there last year if I hadn't had a problem with my knee.''

Exactly 100 days after being consigned to the sidelines by a knee injury, Graf was back, slamming the ball in her first competitive match since being dethroned by Martina Hingis as the world No 1.

Graf was playing in a doubles match on the opening day of the German Open, and was clearly happy to be back in action.

"The moment I stood on the court and hit the first ball in training was unbelievably wonderful," Graf, 27, said. "I knew the reason why I've worked these months."

Graf will face Chanda Rubin of the United States either today or tomorrow in her comeback singles match as she tries to win her 10th title in Berlin.

Graf's says that playing again has nothing to do with trying to displace Hingis from the top of rankings. The two were expected to meet here, but Hingis fell off a horse and withdrew.

"Being No 1 isn't a motivation. Sorry can't help you with that," Graf said, and laughed.

Graf's relaxed mood was in sharp contrast to last year, when her father was still jailed on charges of tax evasion and she fought back tears when lifting the winner's trophy.