Serena withdraws from Italian Open due to Achilles injury

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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ROME — Four-time champion Serena Williams withdrew from the upcoming Italian Open citing the Achilles issue that bothered her in a loss to Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open semifinals, organizers at the Foro Italico announced on Saturday.

Williams took a medical timeout for a tape job on her Achilles during her three-set loss on Thursday.

“I regretfully must withdraw from the (Italian Open) due to an Achilles strain,” Williams said. “I’m so humbled by the continuous support from my fans in Rome and I look forward to making my return soon.”

The Italian Open, which was rescheduled from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, begins on Monday.

Azarenka remained entered for Rome and was drawn to play Venus Williams in the first round.

In the men’s tournament, U.S. Open finalists Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev withdrew, as did Daniil Medvedev, who lost to Thiem in the semifinals in New York.

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal headlines the field in the Italian capital, marking his return to tennis after a seven-month layoff. He has been practicing in Rome for several days.

Nadal was drawn a tough opening match against fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, who was beaten by Zverev in the U.S. Open semifinals. Nadal and Carreno Busta have byes in the first round – Nadal due to his ranking and Carreno Busta because of his performance in New York.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who was disqualified from the U.S. Open, is also entered.

The clay-court tournament in Rome is a warmup event for the French Open, which starts on Sept. 27.

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

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
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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.