Player tests positive for COVID-19 at Palermo Open

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PALERMO, Sicily — A tennis player entered for the Palermo Ladies Open tested positive for the coronavirus and has withdrawn from the tournament, organizers announced Saturday.

While noting that the player is asymptomatic, the WTA Tour said in a statement that she will remain in isolation “until cleared by a physician per the established protocols.

“In addition, all those who may have been in close contact with the individual are undergoing testing per WTA protocols,” the women’s tour added. “The 31st Palermo Ladies Open will continue as planned.”

Local organizers, who would not name the player, said she was admitted to a national health facility designated for asymptomatic patients with COVID-19.

“The efficiency of the protocols and the related tests allowed us to intercept a positive case,” said Dr. Antonio Cascio, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Palermo who is the tournament’s anti-virus coordinator. “The player never left her hotel room while awaiting the results of the exams.”

All of the players for the tournament are staying in the same hotel.

The WTA tournament marks the return of tour-level tennis following a five-month break for the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first official event – for men or women – since early March.

Qualifying began Saturday with main draw action due to begin Monday.

After former French Open champions Simona Halep and Jelena Ostapenko withdrew, the main draw is headlined by last year’s Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova, No. 15 Petra Martic and No. 20 Maria Sakkari.

Tournament organizers had announced on Friday that more than 400 coronavirus tests were carried out on players and staff members and all of them came back negative.

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.