Venus Williams victorious in return at Eastbourne
Venus Williams finally beat Andrea Petkovic on Monday.
Five months after a hip injury forced her to retire against Petkovic after one game of their third-round match at the Australian Open, Williams beat the German 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in her first match back at Easbourne, England to complete a successful start to her Wimbledon preparations.
"It felt fitting, I guess," Williams said of playing Petkovic again. "It was a great way to start it all off."
The 30-year-old Williams was clearly rusty. She began the match with two double-faults and she made a series of unforced errors, particularly off the forehand side.
But the five-time Wimbledon champion's grass-court experience, and greater aggression, saw her through. She wasted three match points in the final game and saved a break-back point before finally taking it when Petkovic went wide with a forehand.
In other matches, third-seeded Victoria Azarenka beat Peng Shuai of China 6-4, 7-6 (2), while fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova recovered from a slow start to defeat Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.
Williams said the blustery wind and damp air on England's southeast coast contributed to an erratic display. The 30-year-old slipped over on the baseline in the 11th game of the second set, almost doing the splits.
"It was definitely an adventure today," she said. "Falling down every other point, coming back from such a long layoff, competing against someone who's been playing so well in the last 12 months.
"I was extremely excited to come back with the win. More than anything I was just really extremely excited to have the opportunity to play another match."
After benefiting from Williams' injury, Petkovic went on to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne and has since risen to No. 11 in the rankings. The 23-year-old led 4-2 in the first set before losing it 7-5, but she fought back well to come from a break down to take the second.
One break in the third set was enough for Williams to seal the a place in the second round where she will play former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic or Julia Goerges of Germany.
"It's a victory to be healthy," said Williams, who added that she felt no pain from her hip during the match. "As long as I can stay healthy, I know my game will just keep improving every day."
Williams' sister Serena will make her return to action after nearly a year out against Tsvetana Pironkova on Tuesday. She could then face top-seeded Vera Zvonareva.
The men's tournament also began Monday. There were first-round wins for Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
However, the second-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov went out, beaten 7-5, 6-2 by Argentina's Carlos Berlocq.