Roger Federer dazzles in first career Bay Area appearance

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) From his knees at the middle of the net, Roger Federer struck volley after volley right back at Jack Sock until the American star finally faltered. Federer just smiled.

He’s the best in the world at age 36.

Earlier, Federer emerged from the tunnel of smoke and walked onto the court greeted by roars and thousands of camera phones held high for the first Bay Area appearance of his career.

Even if this doubles match didn’t officially count Monday night, it sure mattered to all of the children in Africa who Federer is committed to helping through his foundation.

Federer waved every which way, held his racket in the air and beamed when introduced during warmups with the announcement at the sold-out SAP Center that he had regained the No. 1 world ranking.

He entertained from the start, too, praising Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates as a perfect partner.

“He knows numbers very well. He never makes mistakes on the scores,” Federer cracked. “I’ll do the running and Bill does the thinking.”

He joked to opponent Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s “TODAY” show: “You have to start looking at the ball and stop looking at me.”

Federer called off Gates with, “That’s mine … that’s mine, too,” before Sock lobbed a winner over Gates that Federer couldn’t chase down. Federer and Gates took the match 6-3.

Federer’s “The Match for Africa” exhibition sold more than 15,000 tickets to benefit his foundation that supports education for children in Africa.

“This match for Africa is something extraordinary,” Sock said.

The Swiss star, who at 36 is the oldest men’s player to be No. 1, won the Australian Open in January for his 20th Grand Slam title.

Federer and Gates also teamed up last year in Seattle.

Sock joked beforehand, “Don’t hit it to Roger … I’m winless against him for my career.”

A video promoting the match featured Federer training Gates, from weight lifting – lunges with a heavy bar over his shoulders – to studying a tennis book and both ping-pong and tennis practice to work on his reflexes and skills.

“You’ll train like I do,” Federer said. “You are ready.”

And Gates, dressed in a bright pink polo, drew oohs and aahs as he impressed with his shot-making and hustle to keep points alive.

Novak 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.