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Zvonareva Tops Seeds, Williams Sisters Ready

The Williams sisters make a long-awaited return in Eastbourne. Watch their practice video here.

Published June 11, 2011 12:00

Zvonareva Tops Seeds, Williams Sisters Ready
Serena Williams, Venus Williams

EASTBOURNE, England - Seven of the world's Top 10, a five-time Wimbledon champion and a four-time Wimbledon champion are among a line-up the world will be watching this week at the AEGON International in Eastbourne.

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World No.3 Vera Zvonareva leads the seeds at the 36th edition of the Premier-level tournament. Though she has lost her first match each of the last three times she has played here, she has some of the best grass court credentials of the bunch - she's not only a former Birmingham champion but the last time she played on grass, she reached the Wimbledon final. She opens against one of the world's newest Top 100 players, British teenager Heather Watson.

World No.4 Li Na flanks the other end of the draw as the second seed, and nobody is on more of a roll. She followed up back-to-back semifinals in Madrid and Rome with a run to her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, taking out four Top 10 players in the last four rounds; in the final she beat Francesca Schiavone in straight sets in a match that was watched by 116 million people in China, the most-watched tennis match in the country's history.

Li also has strong grass court credentials, having reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon twice. The Chinese opens her week against a qualifier.

Victoria Azarenka, Schiavone, Petra Kvitova, Marion Bartoli, Samantha Stosur and Andrea Petkovic round out the Top 8 seeds, with six more Top 20 players also among the 32-player draw, including former No.1 Ana Ivanovic.

That's not all by any means. This tournament marks the return to action of both Williams sisters, Serena being out since last year's Wimbledon due to injury and illness, and Venus out since the Australian Open due to injuries.

Serena Williams injured her right foot just after Wimbledon a year ago and missed eight months as a result - then, this past February, she suffered a hematoma and pulmonary embolism that kept her out a further three months. Now, the 13-time Grand Slam champion (and four-time Wimbledon champion) will take the court for the first time in almost a year here in Eastbourne.

Venus Williams has only played two tournaments since Wimbledon last year, the US Open and Australian Open. Apart from that she has been completely out as well, missing every other event in the second half of last year with a knee injury and most of this season with abdominal and hip injuries.

Neither Williams sister will have it easy coming out of the blocks - Serena opens against Tsvetana Pironkova, who made it all the way to the semifinals of Wimbledon last year (and if she gets by her, she could face Zvonareva second round). Venus opens against the No.8 seed, Petkovic, against whom she suffered the abdominal injury and had to retire at the Aussie Open this year.

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