Osaka advances in straight sets at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Naomi Osaka rolled past Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Monday night, keeping the world’s No. 1 player on track to defend her title.

Collins struggled with her serve throughout the match, committing seven double faults and connecting on just 47 percent of her first serves.

Osaka’s first serve percentage was 66 and she won 70 percent of her first-serve points.

Osaka won her first career title at Indian Wells a year ago, propelling her to a career-best year in which she defeated Serena Williams for the U.S. Open title. She began this year winning the Australian Open and moving to the top of the rankings.

Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s player, had a night match.

Venus Williams is turning back her own clock, moving into the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over qualifier Christina McHale.

Williams is seeking her 50th career WTA Tour title in the desert, where she has never won the event. And at 38, she’s showing vintage form.

“I don’t really play that often, so when I do, I need to play well,” she said. “It’s extra motivation for me to play just a little bit better out there.”

Serena, a two-time champion at Indian Wells, retired from her match on Sunday because of a viral illness.

Ranked 36th in the world, Williams endured three sets in her first two matches. She rallied past Andrea Petkovic in the opening round and followed up by outlasting No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova in a third-set tiebreaker.

Kvitova had made the finals in two of her first three tournaments this year.

Williams, who made the semifinals in the desert last year, was playing McHale for the first time. Williams rallied from early breaks down in both sets to win.

“I never played her, so it’s also you’re out there learning,” Williams said.

Karolina Pliskova eased past qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3, 6-2. No. 8 Angelique Kerber outlasted qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka defeated 24th-seeded Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5.

Two seeded women lost: No. 11 Anastasija Sevastova, who retired trailing 5-0 in the first set against No. 21 Anett Kontaveit, and No. 15 Julia Goerges, who lost to Mona Barthel 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

On the men’s side, No. 3 Alexander Zverev lost to German countryman Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-1.

Playing just his third tournament of the year, Zverev said he’s been sick for a week.

“That hasn’t changed, unfortunately,” he said.

Dominic Thiem, seeded seventh, defeated No. 27 Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1. No. 13 Milos Raonic got a challenge from American qualifier Marcos Giron before winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Miomir Kecmanovic, a lucky loser from Serbia, got past No. 30 Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-6 (3).

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.