Serena Williams to return at Eastbourne

Serena Williams, the dominant force in women's tennis for the past decade, will return to action after nearly a year's absence at next week's Wimbledon warm-up event in Eastbourne, she said today.

The 29-year-old American won the last of her 13 grand slam singles titles at Wimbledon last year before a freak foot injury and complications including life-threatening blood clots cast doubt over her career.



Her return to play at the grasscourt event, which begins on Saturday, for the first time since her only appearance on England's south coast in 1998 is a huge boost for the tournament and the women's game which has suffered in comparison to the golden era on the men's side.



"I am so excited to be healthy enough to compete again," the four-times Wimbledon champion said in a statement posted on the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) website (http://www.lta.org).



"These past twelve months have been extremely tough and character building. I have so much to be grateful for. I'm thankful to my family, friends, and fans for all of their support. Serena's back!"



World number 25 Serena, whose last competitive match was her victory at Wimbledon last year over Vera Zvonareva, has been handed a wildcard by tournament organisers and will join sister Venus in a strong draw which includes newly-crowned French Open champion Li Na of China.



Venus is also returning just in time for Wimbledon after being out injured since the Australian Open.



"People here will be absolutely thrilled that she's back playing world class tennis, and that she's chosen the grass courts of Devonshire Park as the venue for her return," tournament director Gavin Fletcher, who can expect a surge in ticket sales, said.



"Serena can be guaranteed a huge welcome when she arrives."



Despite a history of injuries, Serena has provided the benchmark in women's tennis since she followed her sister on to the Tour in 1997, winning all of the game's major prizes.



Since she trod on broken glass in a Munich restaurant a week after winning Wimbledon last year, sustaining a cut that required 18 stitches and then surgery to repair a lacerated tendon, the women's game has struggled for top billing.



It looked as though Serena could be forced to hang up the rackets for good earlier this year when she was diagnosed in February with blood clots in her lung and required emergency treatment, an experience she described as "hard and scary".



With Justine Henin retiring for a second time, Maria Sharapova struggling until a recent resurgence and the likes of Serbians Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic failing to take up the challenge, the WTA has continually batted back criticism that the women's game was in crisis.



Kim Clijsters has proved her class by winning the U.S. Open and Australian Open in the absence of Williams but current world number one Caroline Wozniacki is yet to win a grand slam.



The return of Serena and Venus, therefore, could not be more timely, especially with Wimbledon looming and few would bet against one of them winning again.



Between them they have won nine singles crowns at the All England Club and any champion to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in the absence of the American siblings would be left with an asterisk next to their name on the honours board.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?