Venus Williams leads American charge on Day 4 at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Five-time champion Venus Williams led a group of Americans picking up victories at Wimbledon on Thursday as the tournament scrambled to get back on schedule after two days of bad weather.

With play starting earlier on the outside courts and the rain holding off, Williams was among nine American players winning first- or second-round matches at the All England Club.

U.S. men’s winners included John Isner, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, Jack Sock and Steve Johnson. Joining Williams among the women’s winners were Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Julia Boserup.

The 36-year-old Williams, the oldest player in the women’s draw, needed nearly 2 1/2 hours to get past 20-year-old Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

It turned out to be an unexpectedly close match between Williams, winner of seven Grand Slam titles and playing in her 19th Wimbledon, and Sakkari, making her first appearance at Wimbledon and third at a major.

Williams last won Wimbledon in 2008, and she hasn’t gone past the fourth round since 2010.

Keys, seeded No. 9 after breaking into the top 10 for the first time this month, also reached the third round with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Kirsten Flipkens. Keys, a quarterfinalist last year, had 48 winners – more than double the Belgian player’s 22.

Stephens, seeded No. 18, defeated China’s Peng Shuai 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a first-round match. Stephens reached the quarterfinals in 2013.

Boserup advanced when seventh-seeded Belinda Bencic retired with an injury with the American leading 6-4, 1-0.

The 28th-seeded Querrey advanced to a third-round men’s matchup against two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic by beating Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. The match had been suspended by rain Wednesday at 5-2 in the second set.

The 27th-seeded Sock beat Robin Haase 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4. His third-round opponent will be sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, who hit 25 aces in a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 win over Andreas Seppi.

The unseeded Johnson reached the third round for the first time after a 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-3 win over Jerome Chardy.

In a first-round match extended over three days because of rain, the 18th-seeded Isner downed Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Isner, who had 33 aces, has yet to advance past the third round at the All England Club.

“The long days in the locker room the last days were just brutal,” Isner said. “You can only play so much putt-putt in the locker room with your friends and what-not.”

Young, meanwhile, won his first match at Wimbledon after losing in the first round in his five previous appearances. Resuming at 2-1 in the fourth set, he beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

In other men’s play, fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori came from behind to beat Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 on Centre Court; and No. 9 Marin Cilic needed four sets to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-4.

British player Dan Evans made it to the third round for the first time, beating 30th-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-1. Evans, who entered with a 0-3 career record at Wimbledon, will next face seven-time champion Roger Federer.

No. 13 David Ferrer, a two-time quarterfinalist, was eliminated by Nicolas Mahut in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. And No. 23 Ivo Karlovic was upset by Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

In women’s matches, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Varvara Lepchenko, and No. 5 Simona Halep beat Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-1. No. 14 Samantha Stosur was knocked out 6-4, 6-2 by 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki.

Two lowly-ranked men’s qualifiers finished a marathon match that went to 26 games in the fifth set – and ended on a double-fault.

Australia’s 248th-ranked Matthew Barton fell forward onto the grass in relief and exhaustion after 793rd-ranked Albano Olivetti’s second serve hit the top of the net and flew wide for his 17th double-fault of the match.

Barton came away with a 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (5), 14-12 win that earned him a second-round matchup against another marathon man – Isner. The American beat Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 in a match that went to 70-68 in the fifth set and lasted more than 11 hours over three days.

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.