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.

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.

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back