Sania Mirza made a winning return to action after her wedding to Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik as she defeated Chan Yung-Jan 6-1, 6-4 in the first round in Birmingham today.
Mirza had taken several months off from tennis to focus on her personal life before controversially marrying Malik in April. The tense nature of relations between India and Pakistan meant political groups in her homeland protested against the 23-year-old's decision to marry Malik.Mirza's picture was burnt on the streets of Bhopal, where activists from the right-wing Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad party vowed to stop her competing in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.
But, with the storm of controversy dying down, Mirza has been able to return to tennis and she quickly rediscovered her rhythm on the Birmingham grass-courts as she swatted aside Chan, a 20-year-old from Taipei. Meanwhile, Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2008, cruised through as the 14th seed won 6-2, 6-2 against Lilia Osterloh of the US.
Britain's Laura Robson, who last week had to offer an abject apology for an interview she had given where she labelled some of her fellow players as 'sluts', advanced to the second round when her Swiss opponent Stefanie Voegele retired with a back injury in the second game of the second set. Robson, a junior Wimbledon champion in 2008, had taken the first set 6-4 as the 16-year-old claimed the first WTA tour win of her young career.
Croatia's Mirjana Lucic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1999, gave a glimpse of a talent that seemed to have been lost for good as she beat Mariana Duque Marino 6-1, 6-2. Lucic walked away from tennis in 2003 after falling out with her father and the 28-year-old, who had been ranked as high as 32nd in the world, is only now beginning to rebuild her career. The 28-year-old has been playing largely on the ITF circuit in the USA, improving her ranking to 195th, and her win over Marino was her first in the main draw of a WTA Tour event for more than three years.
Sesil Karatantcheva, a Sofia-born Kazakhstani, continued her rehabilitation from a drugs suspension as she beat Britain's Katie O'Brien 6-3, 6-4. Karatantcheva reached the French Open quarter-finals in 2005 before earning a two-year ban after testing positive for nandrolone. There was also success for Michelle Larcher De Brito, the Portuguese teenager best known for the ear-piercing scream she lets out before most strokes. Larcher De Brito moved into the second round with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over Ekaterina Dzehalevich.