Serena to play Pironkova in Eastbourne comeback

EASTBOURNE, England Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:51am EDT

Tennis player Serena Williams takes in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in Miami, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

Tennis player Serena Williams takes in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in Miami, June 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Hans Deryk

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EASTBOURNE, England (Reuters) - Serena Williams will face Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in her first match for almost a year next week at Eastbourne following the draw made on Saturday.

The former world number one, who claimed the last of her 13 grand slam titles at last year's Wimbledon, has not played a match since badly cutting her foot on glass last July and then suffering a series of health problems.

The 29-year-old American, who needed emergency treatment for blood clots on her lungs in February, ended speculation about her participation at Wimbledon this week when she was granted a wildcard to play in the Eastbourne warm-up event.

Currently 25th in the rankings, she has not played in the event on the south coast since 1998 when she reached the quarter-finals as a teenager, losing to Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Neither her, nor sister Venus, who is also making her comeback from a long injury lay-off, are seeded at Eastbourne.

If she overcomes 33rd-ranked Pironkova, Serena faces a possible second-round against top seed Vera Zvonareva who she beat to win her fourth Wimbledon singles crown last July.

Venus, out since the Australian Open, has drawn German eighth seed Andrea Petkovic -- the last opponent she faced on the tour in Melbourne in January.

French Open champion and number two seed Li Na of China faces a qualifier in the first round.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Brian Homewood)

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