Bittersweet: Caroline Wozniacki’s career ends in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was bittersweet, Caroline.

Tears flowed after 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki’s professional career ended with a third-round loss Friday at Melbourne Park.

Wozniacki – “I’m not a crier,” she insisted – got emotional in her courtside chair after being beaten 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 by Ons Jabeur.

The familiar Neil Diamond tune played on the speakers at Melbourne Arena. Her father, who also has coached her, himself held back tears as he lifted the 29-year-old Wozniacki like she was a much younger daughter. Her mother wept. Her husband, former New York Knicks forward David Lee, smiled. He was holding back the waterworks, also.

Wozniacki’s first task at her final post-match news conference was to locate something to dab at her eyes – “I was told there are tissues,” she said – then suggested she was probably “cried out.”

“There’s a lot of emotions, a lot of things I can’t compartmentalize now,” the former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki said. “A lot of excitement. A little sadness. Flashbacks to since I was a kid to this moment. But I’m happy. I’m very happy. Even though I was crying a lot earlier, it really wasn’t sad tears. I think just happy tears.”

Wozniacki announced late last year that she would retire from the sport after the Australian Open, where she won her only Grand Slam singles title.

When the draw was made for the season’s first major tournament, there was a lot of hype about a potential fourth-rounder between Wozniacki and her good friend Serena Williams, who has won seven Australian Opens among her 23 majors.

Neither of them will be in the second week, with Wozniacki telling the crowd it was “only fitting that my last match ended with a forehand error” and Williams describing her shocking loss to Wang Qiang as unprofessional.

The pair met later to commiserate.

“Yeah, she came into the locker room afterwards. We were both kind of bummed about our matches,” Williams said, tearing up when asked about her friend’s legacy. “Yeah, she’s had an amazing career. Oh, my God, I’m getting emotional. Oh, my God. I’m going to miss her.”

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.