Osaka joins Kvitova, Barty in 3rd round of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Naomi Osaka threw her racket, tossed a ball and kicked the racket again for good measure, before sitting for a while with a towel over her head. She sensed the crowd was looking for drama, and she gave them a little bit.

She pulled it together quickly in a swirling breeze on Margaret Court Arena, though, and beat Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.

On the adjoining show court at about the same time, 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova held her composure when she faced three set points before winning 13 of the next 15 points to beat  7-5, 7-5.

Both of last year’s finalists had secured spots in the third round before some of the women hadn’t completed their first-round matches in the singles draw. A backlog created by heavy rain on Day 1, caused a further spillover on Day 2.

On Day 3, the lineup on the show courts was full of major winners. French Open champion and No. 1-seeded Ash Barty beat Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-4 in the second match on Rod Laver Arena. Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic was playing the next match on Melbourne Park’s center court.

Osaka was unimpressed with her performance.

“I hope you guys like the tennis that’s coming after my match,” third-seeded Osaka told the crowd in an on-court interview, “because it wasn’t that pretty.”

She had her service broken three times, including the one in the second set that caused a minor tantrum.

“I got really fired up when she was up … and people started clapping more,” Osaka said. Asked what the crowd was clapping for, she said: “For the drama. I was complaining here, I was almost throwing my racket over there.”

Osaka won back-to-back majors at the U.S. Open in 2018 and Australia last year. She was unable to successfully defend her U.S. title, and is using that as a learning experience here to counteract any nerves.

“I got that all out during the U..S Open. Coming here, I think about it as a new tournament,” she said. “The only thing that has changed is maybe people want to beat me more.”

One of those is two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who had a comeback run at Melbourne Park last year before losing the final.

She said she had a few nerves in the second round, and had some difficulty with the breeze, but was otherwise OK.

“So far it’s good. Being in the third round of a Grand Slam (means) the tournament’s not ending,” she said.

That’s also a theme for 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki, who will retire after the tournament. She wiped away tears from her eyes after converting a ‘7-5, 7-5 victory on her sixth match point against Dayana Yastremska.

Because of suspended matches from rain on Monday, eight first-round women’s singles matches were not completed Tuesday. There were several still in progress when Osaka and Kvitova went through.

Also advancing to the third round were No. 14-seeded Sofia Kenin, No. 18 Alison Riske, No. 25 Ekaterina Alexandrova and Julia Goerges, who beat 13th-seeded Petra Martic 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

In first-round matches, 31-year-old Carla Suarez Navarro, a three-time quarterfinalist in Australia, upset 11th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), and Taylor Townsend beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 7-6 (5) to move into a second-rounder against No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

In the last of the first-round matches to finish, Elise Martin beat Danka Kovinic 6-2, 6-0.

Sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas didn’t even have to go on court to get through the second round, getting a walkover when Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew from their scheduled match because of a muscle strain.

In the only completed men’s match, Sam Querrey beat Ricardas Berankis 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

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.