Davis Cup organizers downplay criticism from French players

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MADRID — Despite renewed complaints from France’s players about the upcoming changes to the Davis Cup, the organizers of the revamped tennis tournament are adamant that everything will soon be better.

Javier Alonso, the CEO of the company behind the new competition, spoke to The Associated Press two days after France’s Davis Cup team lashed out at the changes being made to the traditional tournament. Lucas Pouille even said he would boycott the competition.

“There are several reasons why there is a negative perception in France,” Alonso said. “If France hadn’t made it to the finals these last few years, the perception there would be different.

“France also is a particular case because the French federation is richer, having a Grand Slam, a Masters (event) and many other tournaments. Other federations are not like that. There are some countries that don’t want to host matches because they would lose money if they did.”

France hosted this year’s final, losing to Croatia 3-1. It was the team’s second straight final appearance, and third in five years.

The new format will be an 18-team tournament played over a week in a single venue, with the first two editions being hosted by Madrid on an indoor hard court at the Magic Box arena, which already hosts the Madrid Masters.

The revamped competition was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, the investment group founded by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. The ITF says the changes will help increase revenue for the national federations.

Besides the French, others have also complained about the new format. Among those showing opposition was top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who said the Davis Cup would conflict with the ATP Cup, a newly created team competition. Roger Federer has said he does not intend to play in the new Davis Cup event, but Rafael Nadal has already confirmed his presence.

Alonso said he was not too concerned about top players not committing to the new competition.

“I’m not worried, but we are working to try to show that these changes were needed and that it will be good for the players to come to Madrid and play,” he said. “First, we need to know which teams will qualify, then we can start talking to the players to try to convince them. Right now we have a lot of people talking and they may not even qualify.”

Organizers said the new format is supposed to alleviate the calendar by decreasing the number of dates allocated to the Davis Cup, which currently is played over four weekends throughout the year. The new event would be decided in November after a qualification round in February.

“What we are doing is trying to solve a point of conflict for the players,” Alonso said. “We have taken three to four weeks from the calendar.”

Alonso also said plans to include the women’s Fed Cup in the new format would be considered in a second phase of the project.

He said the third edition of the men’s tournament is expected to be played in the United States.

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.