Tennis

Serena makes winning return

2011-06-14 17:57
Serena Williams (File)

Eastbourne - Serena Williams made a winning return to action after nearly a year out with victory over Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old American, out of action due to injury and health problems since winning last year's Wimbledon title, looked nervy and sluggish initially before settling down to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the second round.

It was far from pretty, but after claiming on Monday she had been on her "death bed" earlier this year, the 13-times grand slam champion would have been encouraged to beat an opponent who reached last year's Wimbledon semi-finals.

"She is an unbelievable player, she beat Venus at Wimbledon last year and when I saw the draw I thought Oh my God," wildcard Williams, who suffered life-threatening blood clots in her lungs in February while recovering from gashing her foot last July, said in a courtside interview.

"I'm a little rusty but I enjoy being back on the grass. I will go inside now and see how I feel."

Dressed in pink and with purple streaks in her hair, Williams strode out on to a sunny centre court with little ceremony, took an age to unwrap her racket from its plastic cover before gingerly taking the first steps on the latest and most challenging comeback of her career.

With barely 20 minutes on the clock, however, she was 5-0 down as the American, playing at Eastbourne for the first time since 1998, slapped amateurish forehands into the net and looked leaden-footed. Her annoyance was clear for all to see as she cursed herself and cracked a racket frame.

There was even a slow hand clap as she took ages to replace the racket, hardly the welcome back she would have envisaged.

Gradually there were signs that she was beginning to rediscover her feel as she held serve at the start of the second set and forged a break ahead on her way to levelling the match.

Williams let out a loud "c'mon!" and clenched her fist as she broke again at the start of the decider with some forceful tennis and confident forays to the net.

Watched by sister Venus who made a successful return from a five-month injury break on Monday, Williams was yelling in frustration as she handed the break back with a netted backhand.

Another piercing screech from Williams accompanied the end of the next game as Pironkova looped a hurried forehand out.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Williams cracked down her seventh ace of the match but was sent sprawling to the turf after a superb baseline exchange to slip 15-30 behind.

She was then warned for slow play, received another slow-hand clap from the crowd, but wrapped up victory with an unreturnable backhand before raising her fist in salute.

Former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia reached the second round with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Germany's Julia Goerges to set up a tussle with Venus Williams on Wednesday. Fourth seed Francesca Schiavone beat Kaia Kanepi 7-6, 6-1.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

Serena continues to lead

27 minutes ago

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
  • SS3
    Mon, 28 Jul 2014 @04:00
  • SS4:
    Mon, 28 Jul 2014 @05:00
  • SS7:
    Mon, 28 Jul 2014 @06:00
  • SS5:
    Mon, 28 Jul 2014 @06:00
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

 
 
Featured Blog

Dave ask if you would like to meet your local sports heroes and stand the chance to win prizes to the value of over R40 000.

Latest blogs
Vote

Which is your favourite Grand Slam of the year?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

TV schedule Plan your couch time with our searchable sport TV guide

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.