Nadal reaches Paris Masters quarters, chasing elusive title

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PARIS — Top-seeded Rafael Nadal stayed on course for an elusive first title at the Paris Masters after beating Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6 (3) on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals.

Nadal has won 86 career titles, including 35 in Masters events, but lost his only final at the Bercy Indoor Arena in Paris 13 years ago.

Thompson found his range in the second set, hitting a couple of big winners down the line and forcing a set point with Nadal serving at 6-5. After a decent second serve, Nadal saved it after a long rally.

“He played well, so I give credit to him. He started to change directions very well with the serve, hitting the right spots,” Nadal said. “Then he’s super fast from the baseline, returning some very difficult balls.”

But Thompson threw his racket onto the ground in frustration after losing the next point and Nadal’s sharp backhand volley at the net took it into a tiebreaker.

The unseeded Australian saved one match point with his third ace of the tiebreaker, but on the next opportunity Nadal pushed his opponent to the back of the court and Thompson’s forehand sank into the net.

Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam champion who on Wednesday became only the fourth man to reach 1,000 match wins, next faces Spanish countryman Pablo Carreno Busta.

“He’s always improving … this year playing the semifinals again in New York (at the U.S. Open) and quarterfinals in Roland Garros,” Nadal said. “He’s playing great.”

Still, Nadal holds a 6-0 lead in their meetings, having beaten him twice already this year.

Alexander Zverev needed three hours to beat unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (11), 6-7 (7), 6-4.

The fourth-seeded German saved set points in each of the opening two sets, but then Mannarino saved a match point at 7-6 down in the tiebreaker and clinched the second set with a smart volley at the net.

Zverev broke in the ninth game of the decider, then saved a break point at 30-40 before serving out the match with two aces, bringing his total to 19.

He next faces three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, after the Swiss veteran rallied to beat fifth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Zverev has won all three previous matches against the 12th-seeded Wawrinka, including in an Australian Open quarterfinal this year.

Earlier, No. 3 Daniil Medvedev overcame a first-set blip where he conceded 11 straight points before rallying to beat 16th-seeded Alex de Minaur 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

The strong-serving Russian concluded with a 13th ace and next plays No. 6 Diego Schwartzman, the French Open semifinalist who routed qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-1 to take a step closer to reaching the season-ending ATP Finals for the first time.

“Diego is playing amazing at this moment,” Medvedev said. “His results are unbelievable.”

Schwartzman would qualify for the Nov. 15-22 tournament in London if he beats Medvedev.

In other third-round matches, 2014 runner-up Milos Raonic advanced after beating American qualifier Marcos Giron 7-6 (1), 6-2.

The 10th-seeded Canadian had 15 aces and did not face a break point.

He next faces unseeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who defeated former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 to continue his strong form.

Humbert knocked out French Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round, and took his second title of the year two weeks ago at the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium.

Carreno Busta, who is challenging Schwartzman for a place at The O2 arena in London, won 7-5, 6-2 against unseeded Norbert Gombos.

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.