Serena Williams knocked off Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round at the Eastbourne Tennis Tournament today, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. There were two very good signs in the scandal-stirrer's first return to professional tennis in over a year: the first was that she won, despite a rough first set, and the second was that she threw a racket and had what we will call a civil conversation with the chair umpire. Any fear that Williams might have lost some of her competitive edge or ability during her twelve-month sabbatical from the sport shouldn't last; as Jon Wertheim pointed out this afternoon, "rust" for the younger Williams (even rust that's built up for so long) "means one bad set."
Williams reportedly slipped on the grass in the third and final set and said afterward that she "felt a little something in my foot" — a scare for someone who claimed, earlier in the week, to have "literally" been on her death bed during her hospitalization for a pulmonary embolism a few months back. And then she delivered the line that ensured, at least for now, that the 2011 Wimbledon ladies' champion is no different from the 2010 Wimbledon ladies' champion:
It's definitely not cool on my nails if I fall. I can potentially break one and that makes me really upset. I have three weeks to get through without breaking a nail.
Oh, she's back.