Jelena Ostapenko reaches French Open 3rd round

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS — After Jelena Ostapenko eliminated No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova at the French Open on Thursday, the conversation quickly turned to 2017.

Which made sense, of course, because that was when Ostapenko surprisingly won the championship at Roland Garros – and the last year she even won so much as one match at the clay-court tournament, let alone two, the way she has this week.

“Of course it’s in my memory, because it’s the biggest win of my career so far, but I have to move forward. And just, like, the world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more and I want to be back in top 5, top 10,” Ostapenko said after beating Pliskova 6-4, 6-2 with the help of a 27-9 edge in total winners.

“Step by step. That’s what I’m working on: my consistency,” Ostapenko said. “Still being an aggressive player – I think it can bring me a lot of wins – but consistency, probably, in my game is the key.”

Her next opponent is 87th-ranked Paula Badosa, who showed up this week with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches but is into the third round at a major for the first time thanks to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens.

Ostapenko has been as high as No. 5 and is currently No. 43. That’s not very different from where she was three years ago in Paris, ranked 47th and just two days past her 20th birthday when she became an impossible-to-predict Grand Slam champion.

“I was fearless,” she recalled Thursday. “Nobody really knew me.”

Using a grip-it-and-rip-it style, Ostapenko upset Simona Halep in the final, making the Latvian the first woman since 1979 to earn her first tour-level title at a major tournament.

Nowadays, there is more subtlety to Ostapenko’s style.

Against Pliskova, she built points. She used drop shots effectively. And she handled Pliskova’s serve, one of the best on tour: Ostapenko won 54% of her return points and broke five times.

Pliskova, who came into the French Open dealing with a leg injury, was not the most gracious foe after Thursday’s loss.

“I know that she can be tough if she’s playing well,” Pliskova said, “but I think everything started with me. Definitely, I was not playing great.”

SHAPOVALOV’S DISAPPOINTMENT

From what Denis Shapovalov called the French Open’s “trash scheduling” and its “freezing” weather, to a call on a shot by his opponent that looked “one inch out” to the “annoying” state of the clay and tennis balls, it seems safe to say the No. 9 seed was not in the best of moods after a five-hour loss in the second round.

What the 21-year-old Canadian did not mention were his 106 unforced errors or that he got broken twice while serving for the victory in the fifth set along the way to getting beaten 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 by 101st-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena.

Understandably, Carballes Baena’s spirits were a tad higher.

“For me, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the first (time) I beat a top 10 (player). The first time I’m in the third round in a Grand Slam. First time I win a match in the 5th set. So I couldn’t be more happy.”

Not much rest for the weary: Shapovalov also needed to play a doubles match later Thursday, and that might have displeased him the most.

“Scheduling is absolutely awful. I mean, after a five-hour match I have to play doubles now. It’s just like, it’s just complete trash scheduling. It’s disappointing,” he said. “I mean you’re in a Grand Slam – and I don’t want to sound spoiled, you know, but you expect at least some help from the tournament to help you compete. I mean, how am I supposed to come out and play doubles now after a five-hour match?”

Shapovalov and partner Rohan Bopanna wound up losing 6-2, 6-2 in 51 minutes to 2014 Wimbledon champions Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock.

DON’T CRY FOR ME

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin takes the highs and lows of being a professional athlete to heart.

When she isn’t on the court, anyway.

“Before the match, I get quite emotional. Sometimes crying,” said the No. 4-seeded Kenin, who reached the third round in Paris with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory against 93rd-ranked Ana Bogdan of Romania. “Luckily, here, there are no tears, thank God.”

But while she gets nervous while waiting to play, once she is in the thick of things, trying to win, it’s a different story.

“During the match, I just try to put the emotions aside. I don’t have time to think about my emotions. I have to play one point at a time,” Kenin said. “After, if I win, I’m happy. … If I lose, I’m crying. So far, so good.”

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.