Simona Halep skipping U.S. Open due to virus

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NEW YORK — Wimbledon champion Simona Halep will skip the U.S. Open, saying Monday she is putting her health first and prefers to stay in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Halep, a former top-ranked player who is currently No. 2, won the title in Prague on Sunday.

“After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel to New York to play the (at)usopen,” Halep wrote on Twitter. “I always said I would put my health at the heart of my decision and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe.”

Six of the top eight women in the WTA rankings won’t play in New York. No. 1 Ash Barty and defending champion Bianca Andreescu have also withdrawn.

Other women who won’t be playing include No. 5 Elina Svitolina, No. 7 Kiki Bertens and No. 8 Belinda Bencic.

The U.S. Open is scheduled to start at Flushing Meadows on Aug. 31.

Halep lauded the U.S. Tennis Association and WTA for having “worked tirelessly to put on a safe event and I wish everyone there a successful tournament.”

Irina Khromacheva of Russia will replace Halep in the main draw, according to the USTA.

Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh and Australia’s Priscilla Hon also have withdrawn. That moves American Usue Arconada and Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine into the main draw, and Allie Kiick of the U.S. receives the wild card previously awarded to Arconada.

Rafael Nadal, the men’s defending champion, has also withdrawn from the tournament, but top-ranked Novak Djokovic has said he will play. Roger Federer is out for the rest of the season after two operations on his right knee.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, is also out, along with Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios.

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.