Serena says it’s ‘really cool’ having sister Venus with her

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Serena Williams said it is “really cool” to have older sister Venus with her at the BNP Paribas Open.

“This is kind of where everything started for us,” Serena said Thursday during a press conference at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “This was such a big event for us early in our careers. We both played qualifying here back in `97, a long time ago, so it’s just been a place for us that has really meant a lot.

“Then we had that one memory and we both want to get rid of that.”

That one bad memory was of the 2001 tournament, when Venus withdrew with an injury just a few minutes before she was to face Serena in one of the women’s semifinals. When Serena took the court to face Kim Clijsters in the final (which she won) she was greeted with boos, as were Venus and their father Richard as they walked down the stadiums steps to their seats. Richard called the predominantly white fans racists who had disgraced America with their actions and the sisters vowed not to return.

They didn’t, either, until last year, when Serena came back. She was greeted with standing ovations and despite having to withdraw from a semifinal match against eventual champion Simona Halep due to a leg injury she had a marvelous time. The only negative was that Venus wasn’t able to share it with her.

Serena said she “would never have come if she (Venus) had been like, `I don’t think you should.’ Or, `I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ I would never have come. So we talked about it even last year. I remember saying it wasn’t time for her because she was dealing with a lot physically and her illnesses and she had played a lot already so it wasn’t good timing. I know she wanted to try to make an effort to see what it was like and go from there.”

The sisters have done a lot of talking in the year since and Serena said Venus is really excited to be here and I’m excited for her, too, to kind of have hopefully the experience I had last year.”

Venus, who will play her opening match against Kurumi Nara of Japan on Friday afternoon, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun this week that it “feels great to be back. Serena was a huge influence for me to be here. She really, really paved the way for me. I’m really proud of her.

“More than anything, I think she did a wonderful job doing something she didn’t have to do and I’m proud of her for that. She’s made it so easy for me to just come and play tennis.”

Serena, who will play her first match Friday against Laura Siegemund of Germany, said she has an idea how her sister will feel when she takes the court in the afternoon.

“We talked about it last year, about how my experience was,” Serena said. “I hope she knows what to expect. I was a little nervous. Originally I was a little anxious and then I was a little nervous when it came down to it, the last couple of hours and the last couple of days. So maybe we’ll have a little bit of a talk

“I’m definitely a little bit more relaxed (this year). It’s definitely more of a normal tournament than last year so we’re making strides.”

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.