Nadal breaks McEnroe’s mark of straight sets won on surface

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MADRID – Rafael Nadal broke John McEnroe’s record of 49 straight sets won on the same surface by beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

Nadal extended his winning streak to 50 consecutive sets on clay, eclipsing the mark McEnroe established on carpet in 1984.

While Nadal marched on, the top women’s players continued to struggle in the Spanish capital after top-ranked Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova both lost in the quarterfinals.

Also on the men’s side, second-seeded Alexander Zverev brushed aside Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-2 and will meet John Isner after he edged Pablo Cuevas in a hard-fought match that needed tiebreakers to decide all three sets.

Isner prevailed 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in 2 hours, 21 minutes.

The top-ranked Nadal, who improved to 18-1 overall on the season, has won 38 of his last 39 matches on his favored clay.

Nadal went up a break at 4-2 in the first set after back-to-back errors by Schwartzman, including a missed smash.

Nadal then struck a forehand winner on the run to break Schwartzman again in the second set. Schwartzman broke back, but two straight double-faults gave Nadal a third break en route to the win.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is seeking his sixth title in Madrid after taking his trophy hauls at Monte Carlo and Barcelona to 11 apiece.

Nadal will next face Dominic Thiem in a rematch of last year’s final. Thiem outlasted Borna Coric 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Also, Dusan Lajovic fought back from 0-4 in the decisive tiebreaker to stun fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) for his first career win against a top-10 ranked player.

Lajovic moved on to meet sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson, who eliminated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (7).

Kyle Edmund continued his excellent run by ousting eighth-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 6-4. Edmund, an unseeded Brit, defeated former No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets on Wednesday.

Edmund will face 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov, after he bettered Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4 in an all-Canadian clash.

Halep lost to Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3, ending her bid to become a three-time consecutive champion in Madrid.

Pliskova gave the Romanian no chance, breaking her serve four times and hitting 20 winners.

“I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life,” the sixth-seeded Pliskova said. “I feel amazing since in the last six matches I lost to her.”

Halep got off to a positive start by breaking Pliskova for a 2-0 lead, only for the Czech to take the break right back to swing the match in her favor.

“I missed in some important moments,” Halep said. “That’s why it went her way.”

Pliskova is now the highest seeded player left in the women’s tournament after both No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and third-seeded Garbine Muguruza lost Wednesday.

She will play Petra Kvitova or Daria Kasatkina in the semifinals.

Kiki Bertens came from behind to beat Sharapova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. She will play seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia after she dispatched with Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-3.

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.