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Djokovic splits up with his longtime coach Vajda

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Novak Djokovic has split with his longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members, saying he wants to find “the winning spark on the court again.”

Djokovic said on his website on Friday that he “mutually agreed” with Vajda, fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic to end their “successful and long term partnership” two weeks ago after the Monte Carlo Masters, where he lost in quarterfinals.

“It was not an easy decision, but we all felt that we need a change,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last year after a slump in form following his French Open triumph.

He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years, the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open. He finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking.

Vajda started working with Djokovic in 2006, and the last three seasons together with Boris Becker, who quit last year.

“We arrived to the point where we all realized we need new energy in the team,” Vajda said on the website. “Novak can do so much more and I am sure he will.”

Djokovic said he believes this “shock therapy” will help him achieve better results.

“I want to continue raising the level of my game and stamina and this is a continuous process,” Djokovic said. “I enjoy this journey, it feels like I am starting something new again.”

Djokovic said he was thinking of hiring a new coach, but did not want to rush it.

“I will be on the tour alone for a while with the support of my family and management,” he said.

Federer off to winning start in bid for 10th Halle title

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Roger Federer began his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Australia’s John Millman on Tuesday, with defending champion Borna Coric also advancing.

Federer, who lost to Coric in last year’s final, hit nine aces and saved the only break point he faced to beat Millman in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Federer next faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 at the grass-court tournament.

Federer already has the best grass-court record in the Open era with 18 titles, and the 37-year-old can set a personal record with his 10th at a single event in Halle.

Federer and Tsonga played only once before on grass, with the French player coming from two sets down to win at Wimbledon in 2011.

The fourth-seeded Coric defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar 7-6 (2), 6-3 and will next face Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa in the second round.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who won the Stuttgart Open on Sunday, defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4 for a second-round meeting with compatriot Andreas Seppi.

Seppi beat Mats Moraing 6-4 (7), 6-4.

Other winners Tuesday included Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Richard Gasquet, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Jan-Lennard Struff.

Top-ranked Osaka gets 1st-round win in Birmingham on grass

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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) A day after saying she was “not really that comfortable” playing on grass, top-ranked Naomi Osaka needed three sets to get past her first-round opponent at the Birmingham Classic on Tuesday.

Osaka lost the second set to Maria Sakkari of Greece before recovering to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, for only her 11th tour-level victory on grass.

“I was kind of screaming on the inside during that entire match,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “I got lucky a little bit, I guess.”

Osaka has yet to make it past the third round at Wimbledon, which starts on July 1.

“I felt better than the two practice days,” Osaka said. “And I feel every day that I play on grass of course I’m going to learn how to play better, but for now I’m just really happy I was able to win that match.”

Osaka needs to reach the final in Birmingham to guarantee holding on to top spot in the rankings heading into Wimbledon.

“During my entire clay season, it kind of mattered and I think it showed because I was kind of stressed out the entire time,” she said. “So, now, I’m just having fun. I’m enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I’ll be No. 1.”

Osaka will next face Yulia Putintseva, who defeated Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-1, 6-4.

Rain washed out much of the schedule Tuesday, with second-seeded Ashleigh Barty – the newly crowned French Open champion – among those who will have to try again on Wednesday.

Julia Goerges recovered to defeat Dayana Yastremska 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 while former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko eased past Wimbledon junior champion Iga Swiatek 6-0, 6-2 and will now face Johanna Konta.

Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic set up a first tour-level meeting with her twin sister, Karolina, by defeating Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-4.