Kvitova, Halep advance at Dubai Championships

Getty Images
0 Comments

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Former champions Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep overcame windy conditions to reach the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships on Wednesday.

The second-seeded Kvitova beat American Jennifer Brady 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 despite struggling with her serve, while No. 3 Halep ousted Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-3, 7-5.

A day after Naomi Osaka lost her first match since moving up to No. 1 in the WTA rankings, fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber was also upset in a 5-7,6-4,6-0 loss to Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan.

Kvitova, the 2013 champion in Dubai, struggled badly in the second set when she failed to convert four break points in the opening game and then was broken twice to trail 4-0 – double-faulting twice in each of those service games.

But the two-time Wimbledon champion saved two break points in the first game of the decider before breaking the American’s serve to take a decisive lead. After a 10th double-fault on her first match point, Kvitova sealed the win with a winner at the net.

“The wind was just terrible today, to be honest. It was really difficult to find a way with it,” Kvitova said. “I couldn’t really serve well today at all. It’s been big struggle for me.”

Halep had fewer problems in earning her second win over Tsurenko in two weeks, after beating her at the Qatar Open as well. Although she did have to break back when Tsurenko served for the second set at 5-4, winning the final 12 points to seal the victory.

“I feel close to my highest level,” said Halep, the 2015 champion. “My mindset now is just to finish the points as quick as possible. I’m trying to be more aggressive… I’m more relaxed. I don’t put pressure on myself. Also I have no expectations. When I feel that, I play better.”

Also, fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Alison Riske of the United States 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), and No. 6 Elina Svitolina breezed past Garbine Muguruza of Spain 6-1, 6-2.

Novak Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

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

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.