Nadal wins 11th Barcelona title, unbeaten in 46 sets on clay

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal continues to make winning on clay look all too easy.

Nadal extended his dominance on the surface with a 6-2, 6-1 win over 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win his 11th Barcelona Open title.

Nadal, who also won his 11th Monte Carlos Masters title last week, was never seriously challenged on his way to a 19th straight victory on clay.

The top-ranked Spaniard has won 46 straight sets on clay, extending his own record. He hasn’t lost on clay since facing Dominic Thiem in Rome last year.

It was the 77th title overall for Nadal, tying him with John McEnroe for fourth best in the Open Era. Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl are ahead.

Nadal, who won his 400th match on clay in Saturday’s semifinal, needed the victory in Barcelona to secure his No. 1 ranking.

“It’s hard for anybody to imagine all the feelings and emotions I have when I play here,” Nadal said. “Hopefully I can keep coming back for many more years to come.”

Nadal was out of action earlier this year because of a lingering right hip injury sustained in the Australian Open quarterfinals. He returned to help Spain defeat Germany in the Davis Cup quarterfinals and then went on to win in Monte Carlo.

“I’ve had two fantastic weeks but we were coming off difficult months because of the injuries,” Nadal said.

The 63rd-ranked Tsitsipas was trying to become the first Greek to win an ATP Tour title. He was the first Greek to make it to an ATP final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in 1973.

Tsitsipas was the youngest finalist in Barcelona since 2005 and was looking to become the first unseeded champion in the tournament since Gaston Gaudio in 2002.

Tsitsipas had 23 unforced errors in the 77-minute loss on the Rafa Nadal court, with brief rain interruptions.

The Greek is expected to move to 44th in the rankings after his performance in Barcelona.

 

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.