Thiem beats Federer in 3 sets to reach Mercedes Cup final

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Roger Federer squandered two match points and lost to Dominic Thiem 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 in a rain-interrupted Mercedes Cup semifinal on Saturday.

Thiem led 5-0 in the second set before allowing the top-seeded Federer to pull even by winning five straight games. In the tiebreaker, Federer wasted one match point with a smash into the net. On the second, he tried to serve and volley behind a second serve but was passed by an impeccable return. Thiem won the set with a smash.

“I was incredibly nervous. I was fortunate in the tiebreaker but you need good luck to beat the best player on grass,” Thiem said.

Thiem beat Federer in the third round of the Italian Open before Federer took a month off to deal with a back injury. That win was on clay, while Saturday’s came on grass, Federer’s favorite surface.

“I can’t believe that I beat him on grass,” said Thiem, who has little experience on grass. Federer is a seven-time Wimbledon champion.

Thiem won the match when Federer sent a backhand wide on Thiem’s second match point. The match was twice interrupted by rain, both times for 30 minutes. The second delay came right after Thiem broke for 4-3 in the third set.

Federer was still without a title this year. He had knee surgery after losing in the semifinals of the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic and was forced to skip the French Open because of the back injury. He’s ranked No. 3.

Thiem, with three ATP titles this year, reached his maiden Grand Slam semifinals at the French Open, and the Austrian has jumped to No. 7 in the world.

Thiem will play either Juan Martin del Potro or Philipp Kohlschreiber for the title.

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.