Murray beats Tsonga in Vienna for third straight ATP title

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VIENNA — Andy Murray closed in on the No. 1 ranking by winning his third straight ATP title at the Erste Bank Open on Sunday.

The Scot can overtake Novak Djokovic atop the ATP rankings next week if he wins the Paris Masters and the Serb doesn’t reach the final.

“I get a step closer with every win but it’s still a long way from here,” Murray said.

Murray defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 7-6 (6) for his personal-best seventh title of the season, and 42nd overall. Djokovic has also won seven events this year.

Murray extended his unbeaten streak to 14 matches after also winning in Beijing and Shanghai.

The 15-ranked Tsonga, who was the 2011 champion, appeared in his first final of the season, which has been marred by adductor and left knee injuries.

Murray advanced to the final after defending champion David Ferrer pulled out with a left leg injury, while Tsonga saved a match point in his 2 1/2-hour semifinal against Ivo Karlovic on Saturday.

Murray, who also won in Vienna on his only previous visit in 2014, dominated Sunday’s final from the start. He raced into a 3-0 lead by taking 14 of the first 19 points of the match.

He avoided break points in his games, and missed a set point on the Frenchman’s serve at 5-2 but clinched the opening set the next game with his second ace.

Murray conceded just two points on his way to a 2-0 lead in the second set but started to struggle with his first serve as his percentage dropped to 18 halfway through the second set.

He hit a forehand long on the only break point for Tsonga to help the Frenchman level at 4-4.

Murray missed his first match point in the tiebreaker as he netted a forehand return, but closed out the win on his second chance with an ace.

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

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
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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.