Kenin beats Putintseva to reach Abu Dhabi quarterfinals

Getty Images
3 Comments

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States came back from match point down to beat Yulia Putintseva and reach the quarterfinals of the Abu Dhabi Open on Sunday.

Kenin posted 57 unforced errors to Putintseva’s 43 but still prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 over the 13th-seeded Putintseva.

“I felt like today was more of a mental match. I practice with her quite a lot so I know her game well,” Kenin said. “I’m just happy with the way that I fought even though I wasn’t feeling 100% on court.”

Kenin dropped the opening set for the second consecutive match in Abu Dhabi. Putintseva had match point when serving at 6-5 up in the second set, but Kenin saved the point and broke Putintseva’s serve to take the set to a tiebreak.

Next up is a quarterfinal match with ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari, who beat former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4, posting 33 winners to five for the more defensive Muguruza. Kenin won her two previous matches against Sakkari, both in three sets in 2018.

Also, Elina Svitolina saved two match points in a final-set tiebreak to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (8) for a place in the quarterfinals. The second-seeded Ukrainian faces another Russian opponent, Veronika Kudermetova, in the next round.

“I was just trying to be focused on every point and not let this match take away the good tennis that I played in the first set,” Svitolina said.

Aryna Sabalenka recorded her 12th consecutive win in tour matches with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ons Jabeur. The fourth-seeded Sabalenka earned a measure of revenge for her defeat to Jabeur in their only previous match in the third round of the French Open in October.

“I didn’t give her any time to play, to make her trick shots,” Sabalenka said. “At Roland Garros, the courts were really slow and she had time and it was really tricky tennis. I think this was the key to today’s win.”

Sabalenka has won every match she’s played since the loss to Jabeur at Roland Garros, and finished last season with titles at the indoor Ostrava and Linz tournaments.

The win over Jabeur sets up a quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded Elena Rybakina, who beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-4 in their third-round match.

Novak Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

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
1 Comment

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.