Wimbledon champion Simona Halep fan of club’s traditions

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WIMBLEDON, England — The newest champion at Wimbledon is a big fan of the All England Club’s oldest traditions.

The tennis whites, the strict rules, even the green grass. And the flowers. Don’t forget the thousands of blooming petals dotted around the grounds in the very Wimbledon shades of purple, green and white.

“I love flowers. The colors,” gasped Halep, speaking a short time after winning her second major title on Saturday by denying Serena Williams her 24th. “The people, they are very well dressed. The elegance of everywhere you go.”

Halep wasn’t exactly dressed for Sunday night’s Champions Dinner while speaking to a small group of reporters following her 6-2, 6-2 victory, but she was wearing something that was even more special to her.

Her brand new Wimbledon member’s badge.

“Looks good,” said the 27-year-old Romanian, brushing her hand over the round, purple button newly pinned to her gray sweat jacket.

“Everything makes this tournament very special,” Halep added. “I never thought I’d be able to win on grass so when I did it, makes it huge.”

Halep grew up playing mainly on clay, a slower surface that usually results in longer rallies on each point. She never used to feel comfortable on grass, she said, partly because she hardly ever got to play on it.

But things have changed in recent years, and the former No. 1 on the women’s tour made a conscious effort to improve her grass-court game. She made the semifinals at Wimbledon back in 2014, but lost in the first round a year later.

To succeed now, she knew she had to change her mindset. To be more aggressive.

“I like to be defensive, but here you have no chance if you are defensive,” said Halep, who also won last year’s French Open title. “And then the serve, which was very important the whole tournament.”

Another important aspect in Saturday’s final was handling her nerves against a player who had won the Wimbledon title on seven previous occasions and was looking to equal the all-time record of 24 majors overall.

Halep managed to do that, too, but said there was still more to be done, more issues to overcome.

“I had to play perfect to be able to win against her,” said Halep, who did just that, playing about as perfect as one can on that giant stage, with the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex looking on from the Royal Box.

Williams has a big serve and hits the ball hard from anywhere on court. Halep got to almost all of them, and returned them cleanly, too.

She finished with only three unforced errors in the entire match, the fewest in a final since records started being kept at Wimbledon in 1998. Williams, on the other hand, committed 26 unforced errors – double digits in each set.

Watching it all unfold from the players’ box was Halep’s mother, who had years ago goaded her daughter into wanting to get to the Wimbledon final. But for Mrs. Halep, it wasn’t really about the game itself.

“She has no idea about tennis,” Halep said, hazarding a guess as to what made her mother mention Wimbledon to her all those years ago. “Maybe the fact that you’re playing in front of the Royal Box, royal family, made her feel special. That’s why she told me back then that it’s going to be awesome and the most beautiful thing to play a final. She didn’t say to win it.

“Now I made it more special.”

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.