Dominic Thiem cruises into 3rd round at Madrid Open

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MADRID — Looking fresh again after taking a few weeks off, U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem cruised into the third round of the Madrid Open with a comfortable 6-1, 6-3 win over American Marcos Giron on Tuesday.

Thiem was in control from the start at the “Magic Box” center court in what was his first match since March. The fourth-ranked Austrian was coming off early round losses in Doha and Dubai and felt like he needed a break.

“For my game, I need 100% intensity and 100% energy,” the 27-year-old Thiem said. “I’m not the guy who can serve through a match or who can play with a little bit intensity and is still winning. I need 100% in every aspect of my game. I was just not able to put that on court like in Doha, Dubai or towards the end of the Australian Open, so that’s why it was better to take a break.”

Thiem, the third seed in Madrid, hasn’t won a tournament since breaking through with his first grand slam title at the U.S. Open in September.

“There was no anxiety, but definitely I was uncertain how things will be going,” the two-time finalist in Madrid said.

He said his goal is to be back in top form at the French Open.

“That’s where I want to be at the top of my game again,” he said. “Two weeks ago, I was not sure if I’m playing here, so the expectations are still super low. A win like today is already a big success, because I get a chance to play another match in a top level, so that will help me again for the next weeks.”

Thiem said he will likely be taking more time off going forward in his career.

“Actually last year, the six-months break (because of the coronavirus pandemic), it felt so nice,” he said. “It’s definitely something I consider, as well, in the future to better take a little bit more off. I think it’s a good thing to do and especially when you get a little bit older … The older you get, the more experienced you get, I think it’s good to do a break sometimes. For me, it definitely helped.”

Thiem’s next opponent in Madrid will be Australian Alex De Minaur, who advanced after Lloyd Harris had to retire from their match.

Sixth-seeded Andrey Rublev advanced to the third round by beating American Tommy Paul 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, while Kei Nishikori reached the second round by defeating Karen Khachanov 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini defeated Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4 in an all-Italian second-round matchup, while Alexander Bublik beat 11th-seeded Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

American Taylor Fritz lost 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in a first-round match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who is coming off a title at the Estoril Open. Felix Auger-Aliassime fell 6-1, 6-4 to Casper Ruud.

In the round of 16 of the women’s draw, third-seeded Simona Halep, a two-time Madrid champion, was upset by 13th-seeded Elise Mertens, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a match lasting more than two and a half hours at the center court.

Two Americans lost – Aryna Sabalenka defeated Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-2 and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Jennifer Brady 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3.

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.