Bianca Andreescu: U.S. Open winner with big future

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NEW YORK — Bianca Andreescu had the U.S. Open trophy in her hands and one thought going through her mind.

Don’t mess it up.

For the first time in two weeks in Flushing Meadows, the 19-year-old looked confused on the court.

“I was so clueless out there,” she recalled with a laugh.

This moment, with more than 20,000 people watching inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and who knows how many more clapping along back home in Canada, was too important to get wrong. So before Andreescu hoisted the hardware she earned Saturday with her 6-3, 7-5 victory over Serena Williams, she leaned toward a tournament official and asked which side was the front.

“I just wanted to make sure so I didn’t look like an idiot,” Andreescu said.

Chances are, she’ll do fine in the future. With her game – and her guts – Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion could have many more opportunities to win major titles.

Just ask Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who referred to Andreescu as a “future No. 1.”

“With her character and mindset, for sure she’s going to win several Grand Slams,” Mouratoglou said.

Williams has won 23 of them, one shy of the record, and with all that experience and the home-court advantage, many people considered Andreescu’s victory an upset.

Truth is, it’s never a surprise when she wins.

She hasn’t been on the short end of a completed match in six months, losing only when she had to stop playing in one match because of a shoulder injury. Andreescu is 34-4 this year with one major and two other prestigious tournament titles, a record that compared to Rafael Nadal’s as he prepared to play in the men’s final.

“I don’t think I’ve lost a match since March, so my confidence is skyrocketing right now,” said Andreescu, who will rise to No. 5 in the rankings. “I just don’t want to take anything for granted because there’s going to be weeks where you’re going to lose, so right now I’m just on cloud nine and hopefully I can just keep the momentum going.”

She couldn’t even get into main draw of the U.S. Open last year after losing in qualifying. But Andreescu thought she could be headed for big things right from the start of this season, when she reached the final of her first event in New Zealand. Then she won the title in Indian Wells in March, before the shoulder injuries that forced her to miss most of the spring and summer seasons.

Andreescu said she didn’t have much faith in herself during those times, relying on her parents and her team to keep her spirits up.

“Also, I mean, it’s part of life going through situations like that,” Andreescu said. “It’s not always going to be butterflies and rainbows, so I just tried to embrace it as much as I could. I tried to learn different things about myself and just about how I can get better as a player and as a person, and I really believed that there were going to be good times ahead, because I think when you believe in that then all those tough times are worth it.”

Andreescu finally was able to return to the WTA Tour in time for her home tournament last month in Toronto, where she won the title when Williams had to stop playing in the final because of back spasms. But she had to go the distance to beat Williams on Saturday, playing through a deafening crowd during Williams’ second-set comeback that Andreescu felt was even louder than the ones at the Toronto Raptors’ playoff games she attended this spring on their way to the NBA title.

“We The North” – the Raptors’ slogan – has given way to “She The North.”

Andreescu played “mostly fearless for a big part of the match. A big, big part of the match,” said Sylvain Bruneau, her coach.

“She could have been a little bit intimidated for many reasons. Serena, the stadium, the world is watching.”

But Andreescu wasn’t, even though she was playing in only her fourth Grand Slam tournament.

Bruneau also was confused during another award presentation later Saturday night, when the coach of the winning player is given a replica trophy. As he posed for pictures with Andreescu, someone had to tell him to turn the trophy around because he had the wrong side facing forward.

“I’m not used to this,” he said.

“Well, get used to it,” Andreescu responded.

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.