Alexander Zverev reaches third Grand Slam semifinal, first at French Open

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PARIS — Alexander Zverev did not want to believe that his opponent in the French Open quarterfinals had saved a break point with a shot that landed on – or was it merely near? – a line in the fourth game Tuesday.

So Zverev crouched down near the mark on the red clay and engaged in a bit of an argument with chair umpire Alison Hughes, repeatedly saying, “No!” and then “How?”

Hughes, whose call was backed up by an unofficial video rendering shown on TV, didn’t budge, and Zverev quickly lost that game, then the next one, too, to fall briefly behind. Could have been the start of an unraveling.

Instead, Zverev recovered quickly, grabbed 16 of the remaining 19 games and easily moved into his third Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

The No. 6-seeded Zverev, the U.S. Open runner-up to Dominic Thiem last year, will participate in his first semifinal at Roland Garros against either No. 2 Daniil Medvedev or No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas. Their quarterfinal was scheduled for Tuesday night.

In the two women’s quarterfinals played earlier in the day at Court Philippe Chatrier, No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia each earned her first berth in a major semifinal.

Pavlyuchenkova entered the day with an 0-6 record in Slam quarterfinals – including a loss in Paris back in 2011 – but she edged her doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7 (2), 6-2, 9-7.

“Mentally it was really, really hard this morning,” the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova said. “Especially since I needed to play Elena.”

Rybakina managed to eliminate 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the fourth round but wasn’t able to play as well against Pavlychenkova.

Before last week, Zidansek never had advanced past the second round at any Grand Slam tournament.

Indeed, her biggest triumphs as an athlete might have come in an entirely different sport: She was a junior national champion in snowboarding.

But spurred on by the vocal support of her coaching team on Court Philippe Chatrier, Zidansek got past No. 33 seed Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.

“It feels overwhelming,” Zidansek said.

There were 15 service breaks in that match and Badosa acknowledged being a bit undone by her nerves.

She threw her racket at the changeover after falling behind 6-5 in the third set.

“I guess I managed to keep my composure today a little bit better than her,” Zidansek said.

Zverev was able to contain whatever was roiling inside after what, to him, perhaps felt like a critical moment – even if it came after just 20 minutes of play against the 46th-ranked Davidovich Fokina, a 22-year-old from Spain who loves to use drop shots.

But after getting broken three times in the opening set, Zverev never faced so much as one break point the rest of the way.

And he played so much more cleanly that Davidovich Fokina, who wound up with 37 unforced errors to Zverev’s 16.

Zverev began this French Open in the worst way possible last week: He lost the initial two sets he played – 6-3, 6-3 against qualifier Oscar Otte.

But Zverev hasn’t dropped one since, completing a comeback in five against Otte to start a run that has now stretched to 15 sets in a row.

Novak 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.