Kvitova escapes first-round scare on Day 1

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PARIS — Screaming in anger and hitting her racket on the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier, Petra Kvitova came close to an early exit at the French Open on the first day of the Grand Slam tournament.

On a rainy Sunday, the two-time Wimbledon champion was pushed to a suspenseful three-set battle by 59th-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who served for the match before Kvitova raised her game and eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, taking the last three games.

In the men’s draw, 17th-seeded Nick Kyrgios lost his temper and received a warning for shouting at a ball kid, but the 21-year-old Australian had no problem advancing to the second round with a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over Marco Cecchinalo. Also advancing before rain halted play early in the afternoon was No. 19 Benoit Paire.

Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan led Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-1, 5-4 and No. 23 Jack Sock of the United States was up 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 2-1 against Robin Haase of the Netherlands when covers were brought on all courts.

Facing a player who never got beyond the second round at any major, Kvitova looked set for a comfortable start to her campaign in the French capital after breaking Kovinic twice to seal the first set 6-2 and opening a 3-1 lead in the second.

Kovinic then changed her approach and destabilized Kvitova with her deep groundstrokes.

“I saw in the first set that my balls were very short and she controlled every point,” the 21-year-old Kovinic said. “I tried to play longer points and with more spins in the second set, and it seemed good.”

Kovinic produced a superb lob to even the match at one set apiece and continued to apply pressure on Kvitova with her powerful tennis.

Showing her frustration, Kvitova smacked her racket on the ground after hitting a double fault and fluffing a backhand in the ninth game of the decider. The Czech hit two more double faults in that game to drop her serve. But with her back against the wall, Kvitova recovered with a series of winners including a backhand down the line to break back.

She then won eight of the next 10 points.

“It was a big fight again. I’m happy that I won it,” Kvitova said. “I played a lot of three-set matches, but it’s not my plan when I’m stepping on the court. I think that from the experience which I have already, I still can believe that I still can win it. Even if she’s serving for the match.”

Earlier, 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova became the first player to advance to the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 win over qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo.

About six months after the deadly attacks in Paris, heightened security at Roland Garros was noticeable Sunday, including extra bag checks and pat-downs that led to longer-than-usual waits at the entrance gates.

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.