Federer through to semifinals in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was a long time coming for Venus Williams, who reached her 21st Grand Slam semifinal but her first at the Australian Open in 14 years.

CoCo Vandeweghe advanced to her first major semifinal, anywhere, beating Grand Slam winners in back-to-back rounds. The one sure outcome when they meet this week will be an American in the final at Melbourne Park.

There’ll be an all-Swiss semifinal in the top half of the men’s draw after 17-time major winner Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won their quarterfinals in straight sets.

Returning from a six-month injury layoff, the 35-year-old Federer lifted his game in 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win over Mischa Zverev, the player who eliminated top-seeded Andy Murray from the tournament two nights earlier.

Federer won the first five games in 12 minutes, setting up a straight-forward win to reach his 41st Grand Slam semifinal and his 13th at Melbourne Park.

“I’m pleased with the way I started the match … after that, naturally everything’s easier,” Federer said. “Second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. Then in the third set I think I was rolling.”

The 36-year-old Williams beat No. 24-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday, becoming the oldest player to reach the semifinals here in the Open era.

She’ll be meeting a confident Vandeweghe, who dictated play against French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in a 6-4, 6-0 quarterfinal win.

The No. 35-ranked Vandeweghe upset top-ranked Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian and U.S. titles last year, in the fourth round. She followed it up with another commanding win, the 10th in her career against a Top 10 player.

Vandeweghe saved the only break point she faced in the first set with an ace, and only conceded 10 points in the 28-minute second set. Of her 31 winners, 14 were from her powerful forehand side.

“Once I got rolling in the second, it was like a freight train,” she said, “You couldn’t stop it.”

Reaching a semifinal against the U.S. Open champion was more than Federer expected in his first major back.

“Not to play Stan in the semis, I’ll tell you that,” he said when asked what his expectations were. “I thought I was going to maybe make a few rounds.”

Wawrinka, who had his major breakthrough in Australia in 2014, beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 – his fourth straight win against the Frenchman.

On Wednesday, the men’s semifinalists from the other side of the draw will be determined when 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal plays Milos Raonic and David Goffin takes on Grigor Dimitrov.

Serena Williams, aiming for a record 23rd Grand Slam title, plays Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova meets Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the remaining women’s quarterfinals.

Venus Williams has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, and isn’t ready to stop in the semifinals in the latest installment of her career revival.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Venus Williams, who hadn’t reached the semifinals in Australia since 2003, the year she lost the final to sister Serena. “I want to go further. I’m not happy just with this. But I’m so happy to be in the position to like go further.”

Williams didn’t reach the quarterfinals at any of the Grand Slams from 2011 – when she was diagnosed with the Sjogren’s syndrome, which saps energy and causes joint pain – until the 2015 Australian Open. She lost in the first round here last year, but returned to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Vandeweghe also lost in the first round here last year, and at the U.S. Open in September, but has found her form in Melbourne this year. As well as the wins over Kerber and Muguruza, she has had wins over No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the final at Wimbledon in 2014.

Williams said the quarterfinal results were a “great win for the U.S.”

“I’m sure (Vandeweghe is) going to want to be in her first final,” Williams said. “I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”

With her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, Williams became the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova (at 37 years, 258 days) in 1994 to advance so far at a major.

There’s also the possibility of another all-Williams final.

But Venus doesn’t plan to be thinking about who was on the other side of the net. She is focused on Grand Slam title No. 8.

“I try to believe,” she said. “I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: `I deserve this’.”

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.