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In Brief: Serena returns 'rusty' victory

TENNIS: Serena Williams made a winning return after almost a year out of tennis as she set up a second round clash with top seed Vera Zvonareva at the AEGON Championships in Eastbourne.

The former world number one has been sidelined since winning Wimbledon last year, first by a severe cut to her foot and then by multiple blood clots which she said left her "literally on (her) deathbed".

She made a dreadful start, losing the first set 6-1 to Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova, but battled back to complete a 1-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and four minutes on centre court.

"I'm a little rusty, but I really enjoy playing here and being back on grass," Williams said. "I'm just taking it one day at time."

Niland one step closer

TENNIS: Conor Niland rallied from a set down to clinch a final-round place in Wimbledon qualifying at the All-England Club in London yesterday.

Niland's prospects looked far from rosy when he lost the opening set. But the Irish No 1 regrouped against Australia's Greg Jones before prevailing 4-6 7-5 6-2. The 187-ranked Limerick native levelled the match by breaking 222-ranked Jones once in the second set and broke him twice in the decider.

Niland has a rest day today, and tomorrow he faces Serbia's 274-ranked Nikola Mertic.

McNulty back to Tarmac

AUTO: Meath man Tim McNulty turns his attention back to the Tarmac Series this weekend and the Topaz Donegal International Rally.

Top seed McNulty leads the Dunlop National Rally Championship after a perfect start to the year but a maiden Tarmac Championship victory is proving more problematical for the Subaru Impreza S12 driver.

In the multi-day Tarmac series he knows that only a win will do on the testing roads of Donegal.

McGee into match-play

golf: Garth McGee, 19-year-old son of Malone club professional Michael, produced a performance of the highest quality to tame the tough Hillside course and qualify comfortably for the match-play stages of the 116th British Amateur Championship.

The former Irish Junior international fired a splendid one-under-par 71 to add to his 74 at the easier Hesketh course on Monday for an aggregate of 145.

mlb: NY Yankees 12 Texas 4, Detroit 4 Cleveland 0, Washingtion 8 St Louis 6, Philadelphia 9 Florida 1, Toronto 6 Baltimore 5 (11 innings), Tampa Bay 4 Boston 0, Atlanta 3 NY Mets 4, Chicago Cubs 5 Milwaukee 4 (10 innings), Houston 0, Pittsburgh 1, Colorado 6 San Diego 3, Arizona 5 San Francisco 6, Oakland 4 Kansas City 7, LA Dodgers 2 Cincinnati 3, Seattle 0 LA Angels 4, Minnesota v Chicago White Sox (postponed).