Federer beats Djokovic to reach semis at ATP Finals

AP Photo
0 Comments

LONDON (AP) Roger Federer showed that memories of this year’s Wimbledon final are well and truly behind him.

In the first rematch between Federer and Novak Djokovic since that epic five-set final, the Swiss star dominated from the start to win 6-4, 6-3 Thursday and reach the semifinals of the ATP Finals.

“I played incredible, and I knew I had to,” Federer said. “I was able to produce, it was definitely magical.”

It was Federer’s first win over the Serb since 2015, having lost their last five meetings – including that Wimbledon final in July when Djokovic saved two match points in the fifth set.

“Obviously it’s always special beating Novak, even more so because of what happened (at Wimbledon),” Federer said. “But I didn’t feel like I had to get rid of the ghosts or anything like that. I feel like I moved on pretty quickly after that.”

This match had little of the same drama as Djokovic gave up three cheap service breaks and Federer gave him no chance to get back in it.

The whole thing lasted just 1 hour, 13 minutes and ended with Djokovic being broken at love.

“He was the better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win,” Djokovic said. “Just a pretty bad match from my side.”

The result means Djokovic was eliminated with a 1-2 record in the group stage, and ensures that Rafael Nadal will keep hold of the year-end No. 1 ranking. Djokovic had a chance to overtake Nadal and equal Pete Sampras’ record of finishing the year as No. 1 for a sixth time by winning the tournament.

“Of course that was a big motivation also for the end of the season,” Djokovic said. “But every time you step on the court, you know there is something on the line.”

In a match between two players with a combined 36 Grand Slam titles and 11 ATP Finals championships, Djokovic was also broken at love in his second service game after double-faulting twice and hitting two shots into the net.

Federer faced his only break point at 2-1 in the second set but held and then broke for a 3-2 lead. He finished the match with just five unforced errors, and that included two double-faults.

“There was a lot riding on the match, and I came out and I think I served great, I had great anticipation, a clear game plan,” Federer said. “It worked to perfection tonight, and hopefully not the last time against Novak.”

Djokovic said he experienced some pain in his elbow early in the second set but didn’t think it will stop him from playing in the Davis Cup in Madrid next week.

“The pain was pretty sharp. But I could play the rest of the match, so if I had something really serious, I think I wouldn’t be able to hold the racket,” he said. “So it was probably just an awkward, quick movement that I did. It did not pose any form of issues later on.”

Earlier, Matteo Berrettini made sure he left the tournament with a victory by beating Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-3.

That match was essentially meaningless as Thiem had already qualified for the semifinals after winning his first two round-robin matches, while Berrettini had no chance of advancing after two losses.

Thiem didn’t play anywhere near as well as in his wins over Federer and Djokovic but came from a break down to force a tiebreaker in the first set. However, Berrettini raced out to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker and converted his third set point with an ace.

In the second set, the Italian broke for a 4-2 lead and served out the match at love, sealing the win with a forehand drop shot.

After hitting 50 winners in his three-set victory over Djokovic on Tuesday, Thiem finished with just 13 in this match.

“Of course I felt a little bit the two first matches, and then also it’s a bit of a tricky situation to know that I’m already through,” the Austrian said. “Of course I was still trying to win that match 100%, but also, in the same time, I knew in my head that I have to take care for Saturday, because obviously it’s the way more important match there.”

On Friday, Rafael plays Stefanos Tsitsipas and defending champion Alexander Zverev faces Daniil Medvedev. Tsitsipas has already secured a spot in the last four, while the other three still have a chance of advancing.

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.