Murray on verge of completing remarkable return at Queen’s

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LONDON — Andy Murray is on the verge of completing a remarkable return after hip surgery.

The three-time Grand Slam champion and Feliciano Lopez completed a busy Saturday at the Queen’s Club by defeating the third-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia 7-5, 6-7 (5), 10-7 to book their place in the doubles final.

Murray and Lopez had only just completed their 6-4, 7-6 (3) quarterfinal win over British duo Daniel Evans and Ken Skupski after that had been delayed by darkness the night before. Murray and Lopez were leading 6-4, 4-5 when play was suspended on Friday.

Lopez played three matches on Saturday, starting by booking his place in the singles final with a hard-fought win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime over three sets.

Lopez and Murray will play Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the doubles final, when Murray can complete a noteworthy week 146 days after undergoing what he hoped was career-saving hip surgery. In January he had said he was planning to retire after Wimbledon because of the severe pain he felt on a daily basis.

But talk of retirement is shelved as Murray seeks his first doubles title since 2011 when he won with his brother Jamie Murray in Tokyo.

Lopez will play Gilles Simon in the singles final first, when the Spanish veteran will become the tournament’s oldest finalist.

The 37-year-old Lopez rallied to beat the 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4 in a semifinal that saw the biggest age differential in an ATP semifinal or final since the 43-year-old Ken Rosewall defeated 23-year-old American Pat Dupre to reach the Hong Kong Grand Prix final in 1977.

Lopez saved all eight break points he faced and converted two of his own to beat Auger-Aliassime in 2 hours, 16 minutes and advance to his first final since 2017, when he defeated Marin Cilic here. Then 35, he became the tournament’s oldest champion.

Auger-Aliassime hit 25 aces compared to the Spaniard’s 15 and will have to wait before cracking the top 20 in the rankings. A win would have been enough for the Canadian, who is a career-high No. 21.

Simon earlier defeated the fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours, 37 minutes.

Lopez has won five of their seven meetings and all four of their matches on grass.

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.