Another winning return by Serena the comeback queen

Serena Williams made a return to competition yesterday fitting of her reputation as the game's ultimate comeback queen. Nearly a year after playing her last match and just three months after coming off what she had described as her "death bed", Williams lost the first five games to Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in the Aegon International at Eastbourne before recovering to complete a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

The former world No 1 was playing her first match since winning Wimbledon last year, having recovered from two foot operations and a stay in hospital in March, when she had a haematoma removed from her stomach after a blood clot had travelled from a leg to her lungs. It was a patchy performance yesterday, but a major achievement in the circumstances. Pironkova, the world No 34, is a good performer on grass, having beaten Williams' sister, Venus, to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year.

Williams admitted that she had been nervous. "It wasn't an easy match, but I think more than anything I wanted to win, and I think mentally I was there," she said. "I could have done a lot of things better, but that's OK. I think that's expected. Going forward I will continue to try to do the things that I need to do."

She added: "I definitely think that I had fun. It's always good to have fun, especially after everything I've been through. It's all fun to me now. This is really all a bonus."

Playing at Devonshire Park for the first time since 1998, Williams had looked sluggish and badly out of touch in the opening stages. Angry and frustrated, the 13-times Grand Slam champion smashed a racket, after which the crowd gave her a slow handclap as she took her time sorting out a replacement.

Williams (left), who has made successful comebacks after lengthy absences in the past, picked her game up from the start of the second set, although the effects of 11 months away from the game was evident in some of her erratic play. In the final game she slipped on the turf after a testing baseline exchange but afterwards reported no damage, not even of the cosmetic variety.

"It's definitely not cool on my nails if I fall, because I can potentially break one, and that makes me really upset," Williams said. "I have three weeks to get through without breaking a nail. It's definitely not good for me to fall at all."

The next round will see a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final as Williams takes on Russia's Vera Zvonareva, who beat Heather Watson, the British No 2, 6-3, 6-3. Zvonareva, the world No 3, was the highest ranked opponent that the 19-year-old from Guernsey has ever faced.

Elena Baltacha, the British No 1, who is back up to No 61 in the world rankings after her victory in Nottingham at the weekend, overpowered Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-1. Baltacha now plays Victoria Azarenka, the world No 5.

In the men's tournament, two home players went out in the first round. Alex Slabinsky was beaten 7-5, 6-3 by South Africa's Kevin Anderson, while Dan Cox went down 6-1, 7-5 to the American qualifier Donald Young.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape