Serena Williams into Australian Open fourth round

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Maybe Serena Williams will be tested in the Australian Open’s fourth round, because no one has come close to making her work too hard so far.

Playing clean and powerful tennis, Williams overwhelmed 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday.

Williams grabbed a pair of service breaks and a 4-0 lead after less than 15 minutes and was well on her way to yet another easy-looking victory. When it ended, Williams placed her arm around Yastremska, who wiped away a tear.

“I thought she did really amazing. She came out swinging,” Williams told the crowd. “To be so young, I thought she came out really ready to go.”

Not only has Williams won every set she played this week – and 20 in a row at Melbourne Park, dating to the start of her 2017 run to the title – but she’s ceded a total of only nine games through three victories.

Things could finally get interesting in Week 2, though, as Williams bids for an eighth trophy at the Australian Open and record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in all: She will face either her older sister, Venus, or No. 1-ranked Simona Halep next. Those two were scheduled to meet each other Saturday night.

Unlike any of Serena’s foes until now, both Venus (with seven) and Halep (with one) have won a major title.

Yastremska had never won so much as a single match at any Grand Slam tournament until this one, but she showed that she’s capable of top-notch play during wins over 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the first round, then 23rd-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro in the second.

She was born in 2000, the year after Serena won her initial major, and grew up cheering for someone she calls “a legend.” Yastremska recalls swinging her racket in the living room at home while watching on TV at age 8 as her favorite player competed.

Surely, everything felt a tad different up-close-and-personal with the 37-year-old American in Rod Laver Arena.

Right from the start, Yastremska appeared a bit jittery, missing 9 of 10 first serves and double-faulting three times while getting broken in each of her opening two service games. By the end of the first set, the teenager had 13 unforced errors, nine more than Williams.

Didn’t get much better in the second set, and Williams wound up with eight aces while facing zero break points, and a 20-13 ratio of winners to unforced errors.

In other action, No. 8 Kei Nishikori beat Joao Sousa 7-6 (6), 6-1, 6-2, and No. 15 Daniil Medvedev defeated No. 21 David Goffin 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

The woman Williams lost to in last year’s chaotic U.S. Open final, Naomi Osaka, dusted herself off after tumbling to the court and erased a big deficit by taking 11 of 12 games to beat No. 28 Hsieh Su-wei 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

No. 6 Elina Svitolina also put together quite a comeback to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 against Zhang Shuai 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, while No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova eliminated No. 21 Wang Qiang 6-3, 6-3.

“I was … struggling,” said Svitolina, who was treated by a trainer after the second set. “I just told myself, `I’m going to die or win.'”

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.