Nadal beats Carreno, to meet Tsitsipas in Barcelona final

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal will face a red-hot Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final after the 11-time champion eased past fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday.

Nadal roared out to a 5-1 lead before Carreno pulled back a break. Carreno then had three break chances on Nadal’s next service game, but the latter saved them all and closed out the set.

Any thoughts of a Carreno comeback were snuffed out when Nadal broke his first service game of the second set in intimidating fashion. Carreno thought he smashed the ball well beyond Nadal’s reach, only for the 20-time Grand Slam winner to angle into position and blast the ball right back past him as Carreno lost his footing and tumbled to the clay.

The top-seeded Nadal improved to an 8-0 career record against the 13th-ranked Carreno.

“I am very happy to be back in a final here at an historic event, a home event, an important one for me,” Nadal said. “I have been improving every single day a little bit more.”

The second-seeded Tsitsipas advanced after beating Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3 for his eighth consecutive straight-set victory including last week’s title run at Monte Carlo. The Greek’s 26 wins this season are matched only by Andrey Rublev on the men’s circuit.

Tsitsipas beat Nadal in their last meeting in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February, when Tsitsipas rallied from a two-set deficit over four hours.

Nadal will try to stop Tsitsipas’ winning streak on Sunday.

“Tomorrow will be a very tough one. (Tsitsipas) is playing probably better than ever,” Nadal said. “Not one set lost in Monte Carlo and here, so it will be the toughest opponent possible. I hope to be ready.”

Overall, Nadal holds a 6-2 head-to-head record with Tsitsipas, including a victory in the 2018 Barcelona Open final.

“It feels great to be back (in the final). I will try to redeem myself from last time,” Tsitsipas said.

The 34-year-old Nadal has won all 11 finals he has reached in Barcelona. He dominated the tournament in his home country from 2005-09, 2011-13, and 2016-18. He lost in the 2019 semifinals to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. Last year the event was not held because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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.