Reilly Opelka back to winning after bout of COVID-19

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American tennis player Reilly Opelka is back to winning matches after dealing with a bout of COVID-19 that he said kept him off the court entirely for more than two weeks and prevented him from practicing the way he usually does for nearly a month.

“It felt like a rough flu,” Opelka said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Rome, where he beat Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 6-4, 6-4 to reach the round of 16 at the clay-court Italian Open. “Definitely put me out completely for five days. And then I stayed home for another 10 or 11 days, at least.”

The 47th-ranked Opelka has back-to-back victories – he beat Richard Gasquet 6-1, 7-5 in his opener – after arriving in Italy on a six-match losing streak that included a first-round exit at the Miami Open in March.

It was after that tournament that he got sick; he described himself as “pretty symptomatic” for five days.

“Took about three or four weeks for me to feel like my energy was normal and to be able to train and practice four hours a day,” said Opelka, a 23-year-old who is based in Florida. “Now? Now I would say that I’m fully recovered. There’s some rust and just some soreness here and there, because I missed out on (so much) work. But my body is feeling pretty good at the moment.”

Good enough to produce 41 aces in his past two matches, with 23 against Musetti.

“I’ve served well. I’ve hit my forehand really well. And, honestly, I’m moving really well. So those three things are really working for me right now,” the 6-foot-11 Opelka said. “I’ve put a lot of work in after a rough start to the year.”

Taylor Fritz, an American ranked 31st, is friends with Opelka and shares a physiotherapist with him.

“I heard he was feeling a bit rough,” Fritz said Tuesday after his rain-interrupted 6-3, 7-6 (5) loss to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Italy. “I probably FaceTimed Reilly every other day to just ask him how he was doing and talk to him.”

Next up for Opelka at a tournament many players use to prepare for the French Open, which begins May 30, will be either second-ranked Daniil Medvedev or No. 27 Aslan Karatsev.

Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist, including at the Australian Open this year, and Karatsev began this year outside the Top 100 before his surprising run to the semifinals at Melbourne Park as a qualifier.

“Pretty rare that a guy who, all of a sudden, at age 27, kind of had his best year and kind of comes out and physically is one of the strongest tennis players I’ve ever seen,” Opelka said about Karatsev. “His body is like no other tennis player’s build. His physique is nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

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.