Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon quarterfinals for first time since 2011

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LONDON — After seven years of struggles, Rafael Nadal is finally looking like a contender again at Wimbledon.

The top-ranked Spaniard is back in the quarterfinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2011 – and playing a lot like the man who reached his fifth final that year.

“It’s true it has been a while,” Nadal said about his return to the last eight. “But when I come here, I come here thinking that I can do a good result, no?”

Clearly, the King of Clay hasn’t forgotten how to play on grass.

The 11-time French Open champion beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court on Monday and has yet to drop a set in this tournament. While tougher tests are still to come, it seems the old Nadal is back at Wimbledon.

That’s the Nadal who earned two titles and three runner-up finishes in a six-year span from 2006-11, despite missing the 2009 tournament with knee problems. Not the one who made it past the second round only once in the four years after that, or who was knocked out by Gilles Muller in the fourth round last year after missing 2016 with another injury.

While Nadal has found grass difficult of late, he insists some of those results were misleading.

“To be fair and honest, we have to think about the things that happened. In 2012, 2013, I was not able to compete. Even if I played, I was not able to compete with the knees the way I had. (In) 2014, I played a good tournament. I lost in the fourth round against a player I can lose to (Nick Kyrgios), 2015 was a very bad year for me, not on grass, on most of the surfaces. It’s normal that I lost here, too. In 2016 I didn’t play because of my wrist. In 2017 I played well, 2018 I am playing well.”

Vesely can attest to that.

Nadal hit 37 winners to only 12 unforced errors and erased the only break he allowed by breaking back immediately in the third set.

His play already has fans and commentators dreaming of another final between Nadal and Roger Federer – on the 10th anniversary of their five-set classic that the Spaniard won. Standing in the way yet could be fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals – the Argentine’s fourth-round match was suspended with him holding a 2-1 set lead – and then possibly three-time champion Djokovic in the semifinals.

The idea of another Nadal-Federer final seems to have most people quite excited – except Nadal himself. The Spaniard is hoping his old rival, and eight-time champion, gets knocked out before that.

“If he’s in the final, I am excited to play Roger,” he said. “Facing Roger again will be something fantastic. If you ask me if I prefer another (opponent), I say yes. That’s the point. It’s about being smart, no?”

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.