Federer reaches Indian Wells final after Nadal withdrawal

AP Photo
2 Comments

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Dominic Thiem outlasted Milos Raonic 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-4 on Saturday to reach the BNP Paribas Open final after Roger Federer advanced when Rafael Nadal withdrew because of a knee injury.

A somber Nadal announced his withdrawal a couple hours before he was scheduled to take the court at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete,” he said.

Federer was warming up on another court at the same time as Nadal and figured the match was on. However, Nadal soon texted him it wasn’t going to happen.

“It’s a big letdown,” said Federer, who came on court in khaki shorts and a gray cardigan to address fans. “I know the anticipation is there from the crowd and also us players. I’m excited to be in the finals but not this way.”

The 32-year-old Spaniard’s right knee flared up in the second set of his 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) victory over Karen Khachanov on Friday in the quarterfinals. He twice called for a trainer, who applied tape just below Nadal’s knee. It was obvious that Nadal’s movement was hampered.

Nadal said he won’t play again until the Monte-Carlo Masters on clay in mid-April.

“I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo,” he said.

It would have been the 39th career meeting between Nadal and Federer, who seeks a record sixth title at Indian Wells and the 101st in his career on Sunday.

“I know every one we have now could be our last,” Federer said. “It’s a special rivalry, maybe the most special with Rafa and Novak (Djokovic).”

Sunday’s women’s final features 18-year-old Canadian wild-card Bianca Andreescu against two-time major champion Angelique Kerber.

Thiem reached the semifinals via walkover after Gael Monfils withdrew from their quarterfinal with a strained left Achilles.

Against Raonic, Thiem earned the only break of the third set in the fifth game. He led 5-3 and served it out, winning on his second match point with a backhand volley.

“The only break point I had to save was in the last game, and that was what I wanted to do, to play my service games well and not let him have too many chances,” Thiem said.

Thiem and Federer have split their four previous meetings, with only one going three sets. Federer won the last time they played at the ATP Finals in London in November.

“It’s always something special to play him,” he said.

Thiem has never won a Masters 1000 title, losing in two previous finals.

Knee problems have dogged Nadal for years, and they cut short his 2018 season after the U.S. Open in September. He was forced to quit two sets into his semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal choked up discussing his withdrawal last fall, and he appeared near tears on Saturday.

He admitted that he sometimes is sad because he feels at a disadvantage against his opponents due to his continued knee issues that force him to limit his practice and playing time.

Then he gathered himself, saying, “It’s not the moment to complain much. With all this stuff, I still where I am today.”

The year began promisingly enough. Nadal didn’t drop a set in reaching his fifth Australian Open final, where he lost to Djokovic. He’s ranked No. 2 in the world and has a match record of 11-2.

“Still tough because I felt more or less OK during this beginning of the season in terms of my knee,” he said. “Now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.”

Even with all of his injuries, Nadal indicated he has no intention of giving up playing on hard courts, the surface for two of the four Grand Slam events.

“My goal is to play on all the surfaces,” he said.

With time to fill before the women’s and men’s doubles finals, Djokovic and Pete Sampras teamed for a one-set doubles match against John McEnroe and tournament director Tommy Haas. Comedian Jon Lovitz served as chair umpire.

Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.