Madison Keys adjusts to new year and new coach

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Madison Keys is starting the new season with a new coach – who is a man – which is going well now that he’s toned down the topspin.

The 20-year-old American had a breakthrough season last year, starting with a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, during her partnership with Lindsay Davenport. The former No. 1-ranked Davenport couldn’t travel full time because of family and commentating responsibilities this year, so Keys is now working with former ATP player Jesse Levine.

Asked if Levine has had to get used to women’s tennis, Keys answered with a smile and said, “He’s been fine so far.”

“There’s been a couple of times when he hits super, super spinny or whatever, and I’m like, `You can’t do that. No one hits like that. Please stop.”‘ the No. 17-seeded Keys said. “He’s like, `Sorry, sorry!’ But other than that it’s been really easy.”

Keys had a slow start in her return to the Australian Open, but advanced to the second round with a 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Zarina Diyas on Tuesday.

She fended off three set points in the ninth game before coming back to win the first in a tiebreaker, and then raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second set to put the match away.

“I think being down set point almost helped me. I thought, `You’re down, keep playing. You can only lose the set,”‘ Keys said. “I definitely had to dig deep and figure it out.”

Keys had a breakthrough season in 2015 that started at Melbourne Park where she cemented her status as a rising star by reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal. She charmed fans with her sense of humor, big smile, a humble self-confidence and her very good tennis, which included beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. She lost in the semifinals to Serena Williams, who went on to win the Australian title for the sixth time.

Keys also reached last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals and the U.S. Open fourth round, having never previously passed a 3rd round at any major.

“2015 was a great year, and I did a lot of really good things,” Keys said. “People are going to try to measure me up to what I did then. But for me, it’s a new year. Last year doesn’t really matter.”

Her goal for 2016 is, “just going out and giving everything that I have that day, and doing the absolute best that I can.”

Novak Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic will open his 2023 campaign in Adelaide as he prepares for a shot at a 10th Australian Open crown a year after having his visa revoked on the eve of his title defense.

The 21-time major winner has been granted a visa by the Australian government and has been listed to play at the Adelaide International, which starts Jan. 1.

Serbia isn’t contesting the inaugural United Cup team competition, leaving Djokovic free to play regular warmup tournaments head of the Jan. 16-29 Australian Open.

He’ll be joined in the men’s draw at Adelaide by Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Andy Murray.

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka will headline the women’s draw.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles last month confirmed Djokovic had been granted a visa to compete in Australia in January. The 35-year-old Serbian had been facing a possible three-year ban after being deported last January over his stance against COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times, including the last three times he played. Rafael Nadal won this year’s title in Djokovic’s absence.

Djokovic was not vaccinated against COVID-19 when he arrived in Melbourne ahead of the 2022 tournament, but Australia has since lifted strict rules for unvaccinated travelers.

Karolina Pliskova reuniting with Sascha Bajin

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Two-time Grand Slam finalist Karolina Pliskova is reuniting with coach Sascha Bajin ahead of the 2023 season.

Pliskova posted on her website and her Twitter account about the move, which comes about six months after she and Bajin stopped working together. The pair originally teamed up in November 2020.

While Bajin was her coach, Pliskova reached the final at Wimbledon in 2021 before losing to champion Ash Barty. Pliskova also was the runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the semifinals before being beat by Angelique Kerber for the trophy.

After splitting from Bajin in July, Pliskova was coached by Leos Friedl. Their results together included a quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open.

Bajin has worked as a coach or hitting partner with several top tennis players, including Grand Slam title winners Williams, Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki.

“Thank you for having me back,” Bajin wrote on Twitter. “Let’s go get it.”

Pliskova is a 30-year-old from the Czech Republic who reached No. 1 in the WTA rankings in 2017 and finished this season at No. 31 after going 21-21 with no titles.

Her team also includes fitness specialist Jez Green and physiotherapist Martin Salvador.

Next year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, begins Jan. 16.