Giorgi upsets returning Azarenka in Eastbourne

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a backhand return to Casey Dellacqua of Australia in their match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament, in Brisbane on January 1, 2014

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka lost her first match after a three-month injury layoff to Italy's Camila Giorgi at the ATP-WTA Eastbourne International on Tuesday.

The two-time Australian Open champion, who had not played since early March due to a foot injury, managed to stand the pace for nearly three hours before losing 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to her 42nd-ranked opponent.

"I wanted a competitive match to test myself," said an upbeat Azarenka, 24, after the first round tie at the pre-Wimbledon grasscourt tournament.

"The most important thing was that I was there playing and I was healthy.

"I can always get better from here. I didn't expect a perfect match, but there are a lot of positive things that came out. I wanted to test myself and that's what I did."

The Belarusian rallied from 4-2 down to win the first set but Giorgi, who has already beaten top ten players Dominika Cibulkova and Maria Sharapova this season, fought back.

The Italian, who played a first WTA final this year in Poland, came back in the second set and won despite nine double-faults after taking a 5-0 lead over Azarenka.

Giorgi, whose father-coach Sergio was going through every emotion in a dramatic display in the player box, levelled at a set each as world number eight Azarenka's early confidence appeared to fade.

The third set was tight until the seed gave away the sixth game for 2-4 with a double-fault, only to break back in the tenth to make it 5-5.

Azarenka was then broken for 5-6, with Giorgi serving out a game later as her opponent's return sailed long on match point.

The Italian next plays 109th-ranked British wild card Johanna Konta, who beat Swiss qualifier Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-2.

"I had the desire, it was so important to see where I'm at and what I have to work on," said Azarenka, a semi-finalist in Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012.

"I need to work on timing, reaction and decision-making, things that you miss when you are away for a long time."

Sixth seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy advanced into the second round at Devonshire Park over Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan 6-3, 6-3 while American Lauren Davis knocked out Italy's seventh seed Sara Errani 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.

Errani's doubles partner Roberta Vinci lost to Slovak Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-1 while Varvara Lepchenko of the United States stopped China's Zhang Shuai 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

In the men's draw, Finn Jarkko Nieminen began with an upset of seventh seed Santiago Giraldo, defeating the Colombian 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 after suffering a leg problems last week in the Queen's third round.

A French pair advanced, with Julien Benneteau defeating Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun 6-2, 6-4 and Eduardo Roger-Vasselin beating Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-4.