EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was among six first-round winners as main draw play began at the Nature Valley International on Sunday, as the Russian defeated Greece's Maria Sakkari, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
The 2004 champion in Eastbourne is competing in just her eighth event of the season after returning from a wrist injury, but is defending quarterfinal results from a season ago both here and at Wimbledon.
"I don't have that much confidence yet - I won't hide it - and in the match, I had ups and downs," Kuznetsova said after the match.
"Overall, I felt like I started to play better and the more matches I get, I'll start to get better and better."
The current World No.58 broke Sakkari eight times over the course of two hours and five minutes, and needed every one of them as the Greek No.1 hit back three times after falling a break down in the decider, in which she saved three match points before the Russian prevailed.
"I'm looking for short points, to come to the net, do the serves, basic stuff you do on grass," Kuznetsova said. "Finding my confidence is what it's all about, because I've been out for a long time and to come back takes time."
In other comebacks around the grounds, qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko rallied from a set down, and a break down in the decider, to defeat Alizé Cornet, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
"We started with a lot of long rallies, and at the end of the set I got a little bit tight and tired because I already played two matches here," the Ukrainian said after the match. "In the second set, I started well and it just went like this through the set, but the third set was really difficult.
The World No.88 dug out of a 0-40 hole at a key moment at 3-3 in the final set, and though Cornet broke her as she served for the match, Bondarenko broke for a seventh time in nine chances in the match overall to seal the win.
"It was up and down all the time, and it's good that I finished at 5-4. I think I served well and my returns were really good. I tried to be consistent, and that's what helped me."
Other first round winners on Sunday included Strasbourg champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was a game away from defeat against Sorana Cirstea before rallying to win, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4; American Danielle Collins, who held off wildcard Katie Swan in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and Donna Vekic and Camila Giorgi, who defeated Yulia Putintseva and Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.