Top-seed Sabalenka beats Paolini in Linz opener

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

LINZ, Austria — Aryna Sabalenka overcame a slow start to defeat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4 Tuesday in the opening round of the season-ending Upper Austria Ladies Linz.

The top-seeded Sabalenka fell 4-1 down in the first set before winning the next five games.

Both players swapped breaks halfway through the second set before Sabalenka broke the 94th-ranked Italian for a fourth time at 4-4 and served out the match in the following game.

The 11th-ranked Sabalenka has won 10 of her last 12 matches, which included a semifinal in Strasbourg in September and her seventh career title in Ostrava in October.

Sabalenka next plays Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele, who defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6 (3), 6-3.

In other first-round play, 2018 champion Camila Giorgi outlasted Sara Sorribes Tormo for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win in two hours and 38 minutes.

Giorgi, who conceded a 4-1 lead in the second set, double-faulted nine times in the match.

Also, former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva eased past Marta Kostyuk 6-4, 6-2, while Sorana Cirstea, Arantxa Rus, Jana Fett and Barbora Krejcikova also advanced.

No spectators were allowed in the arena since Austria tightened its anti-coronavirus measures last week.

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.