Barty defeats Garcia to level Fed Cup final

Getty Images
0 Comments

PERTH, Australia — Australian Ash Barty continued her season-long extraordinary form to beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-0 and level the Fed Cup final at 1-1 on Saturday.

The world No.1-ranked Barty beat Garcia in just 56 minutes on an outdoor hard court at Perth Arena to get Australia back on track after Kristina Mladenovic beat Ajla Tomljanovic, who was making her Fed Cup debut, 6-1, 6-1, to give France the early lead.

Barty, who won her first singles major at the French Open this year, extended her Fed Cup winning streak to 15 matches, a run that began in February 2017.

“I think that’s probably the best tennis match I’ve ever played in my life,” she said. “I could not have asked for a more perfect match.”

Barty is set to face Mladenovic in the first reverse singles match on Sunday.

“I know she has the weapons to make me uncomfortable,” she said of Mladenovic. “It’s about trying to nullify that the best I can.”

Fresh off her record $4.42 million triumph at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen last weekend, Barty overwhelmed the world No. 45-ranked Garcia with potent serving and pinpoint shot-making. She finished with 15 winners and eight aces.

Garcia struggled in the sweltering conditions with the temperature hitting near 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on the opening day. She hit just three winners in her error-strewn performance.

“She didn’t leave me a lot of space. She played well from the first point,” Garcia said. “I was disappointed with my performance.”

Australia’s hopes of ending a 45-year Fed Cup drought started poorly when Mladenovic beat Tomljanovic in 72 minutes.

No.51 Tomljanovic was chosen over former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur as Australia’s second singles player behind Barty.

The 26-year-old, Croatian-born Tomljanovic only received clearance from the International Tennis Federation to represent her adopted country last month.

She was broken six times and had just two winners for the match.

“It’s a tough task for Ajla playing straightaway in the final,” Mladenovic said. “I almost played a perfect match. I was really in the zone.”

Tomljanovic admitted she struggled with nerves: “I wish I could have done better in the circumstances. It didn’t go as planned,” she said. “It’s really unique. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your country and teammates.”

The Australian finally held serve on her seventh attempt, but it only slightly delayed Mladenovic’s inevitable victory.

Australia hasn’t won the Fed Cup, then known as the Federation Cup, since 1974 when Evonne Goolagong, Dianne Fromholtz and Janet Young defeated the United States 2-1 in Italy.

France last won the Fed Cup in 2003 and most recently made the final in 2016.

The final could well go to the doubles match, when Barty and Stosur will play Mladenovic and Garcia.

Both Barty and Stosur and Mladenovic and Garcia won three-set live fifth doubles matches in April’s semifinals to send their countries to the final. Australia beat Belarus in the semifinals and France defeated Romania.

Novak Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.