Medvedev beats Djokovic to reach semis at ATP Finals

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LONDON — Daniil Medvedev is enjoying the ATP Finals a lot better in his second appearance.

Medvedev secured a spot in the semifinals of the season-ending tournament by dominating five-time champion Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 Wednesday for his second straight win of the group stage.

Medvedev, who lost all three of his group matches last year on his tournament debut, has now beaten Djokovic in three of their last four meetings. The top-ranked Serb can still advance if he beats 2018 champion Alexander Zverev in a winner-takes-all match on Friday.

Zverev kept his tournament hopes alive with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman earlier Wednesday.

Medvedev broke Djokovic three straight times to go from 3-3 in the first set to a 3-0 lead in the second. The first break came after a marathon game when the Russian finally converted his third break point when Djokovic missed a forehand after a long rally.

Djokovic then double-faulted on set point and never looked likely to stage a comeback in the second. Medvedev saved the only break point he faced at 2-0 and then secured the victory with a forehand winner on his first match point.

“He was just better, no question about it,” Djokovic said. “Just not a great match from my side. I thought I could have and should have done better, but credit to him for playing on a high level.”

Medvedev is looking a lot more comfortable at the O2 Arena than last year, when his three losses included a collapse against Rafael Nadal in a match where he led 5-1 in the third set.

“You always have doubts in your head, like maybe next year is going to be (like) last year in London, I’m going to go out there and be tight, again, I’m not going to show anything in the Masters finals,” Medvedev said. “Well, not the case. Finished No. 1 in the group already, which is great.”

Zverev, coming off what he had described as one of his worst matches of the season in his opening loss to Medvedev on Monday, led 3-1 in the second set before his Argentine opponent battled back with two breaks.

A visibly frustrated Zverev fired a ball into the empty stands after losing the second set.

The 23-year-old German recovered and broke Schwartzman twice in the third set. Schwartzman, who struggled with unforced errors, sent a forehand into the net to end the match.

The decisive Zverev-Djokovic match on Friday will be a rematch of the final from two years ago when the German won in straight sets.

“I’m happy to give myself a chance to go to the semifinals,” Zverev said. “I need to win every match, otherwise I’m out, so I’ve got to go in with that mindset. I went to that mindset today, and I did my job.”

Schwartzman broke early in the first set, but like in Monday’s loss to Djokovic he immediately gave it back. Zverev broke again for a 4-2 lead thanks to Schwartzman’s unforced errors.

On Thursday, Rafael Nadal will play Stefanos Tsitsipas with a semifinal place at stake.

Nadal has lost to Tsitsipas just once in six meetings – at the 2019 Madrid Open. He beat Tsitsipas here last year in the round robin before the 22-year-old Greek went on to win the title.

Nadal has never won the ATP Finals.

Also Thursday, Dominic Thiem, who has already qualified for the semifinals, faces Andrey Rublev. The Russian is 0-2 and can’t advance.

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.