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Serena Williams returns to tennis after year-long layoff with defeat alongside her sister Venus

Serena Williams of Team USA waits on a serve from Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands during a  doubles match
Image: Serena Williams was beaten alongside her sister Venus

Serena Williams played in her first competitive tennis match in over a year as she lined up alongside her sister Venus Williams in a doubles match at the Fed Cup.

The former world No 1, last seen on the court when she won the 2017 Australian Open, was back in action five months after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia, who was courtside as her mother and auntie played in a dead-rubber doubles contest against Holland.

The Williams sisters were beaten 6-2 6-3 by Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs but the US team had already won the tie to advance to the semi-finals.

"It was really special to be back out here with Venus and we're so happy Team USA won today," Serena Williams said in quotes published on the official Fed Cup website.

"I'm really happy to be here and that we advanced to the next round."

On her daughter being in Asheville, North Carolina to witness her match, she added: "It's her first match so I'm glad she got to see it."

The United States team will travel to France for the semi-finals in April after the French progressed to the last four for the third time in four years courtesy of a 3-2 win over Belgium.

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France's Kristina Mladenovic gestures after winning the  double tennis match against Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens (R) and Belgium's Elise Mertens
Image: Kristina Mladenovic was in inspirational form for France

Kristina Mladenovic won all three of her matches, including the decisive doubles contest alongside Amandine Hesse, with the duo beating Kirsten Flipkens and Elise Mertens 6-4 2-6 6-2.

The Czech Republic got the one win they needed to progress on Sunday as Petra Kvitova beat Switzerland's Belinda Bencic in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to book her country's spot in the semi-finals for the 10th successive year.

The Czechs will face Germany after Tatjana Maria and Anna-Lena Groenefeld came from a set down in their deciding doubles match to win the tie against Belarus.

We will be covering the ATP ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Rio Open, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and ATP 500 Acapulco in February on www.skysports.com/tennis with news, previews, live blogs, reports and expert analysis.

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