Aslan Karatsev advances at Monte Carlo Masters as rain delays play

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MONACO — Aslan Karatsev set up a second-round match with Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Monte Carlo Masters by defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-4 as rain played havoc with the clay-court tournament’s schedule.

Karatsev, who rose to 29th in the ATP rankings from No. 194 since August, saved all four break points he faced. He broke his opponent immediately and led 4-3 in the opening set when rain interrupted play for more than four hours.

Once back from the locker room, Karatsev won two straight games to seal the opening set. The right-handed Russian hit a total of 23 winners and closed out the match with a cross-court backhand.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina also advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Alex de Minaur and John Millman defeated Ugo Humbert 6-3, 6-3.

Rafael Nadal is seeking a record-extending 12th title at the Monte Carlo country club and the 20-time Grand Slam champion could meet top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, in the final. Djokovic beat Nadal in the 2013 final and won the tournament again in 2015, while Nadal’s 11th title came in 2018.

Both have a bye into the second round.

Nadal was beaten by defending champion Fabio Fognini in the semifinals in 2019, and the tournament was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fognini was set to start the defense of his title against Miomir Kecmanovic.

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.