Novak Djokovic wins twice to lead Serbia to Davis Cup semifinals

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MADRID – Novak Djokovic won his singles and doubles matches to lead Serbia into the semifinals of the Davis Cup Finals with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Kazakhstan.

The top-ranked Djokovic kept Serbia alive in the quarterfinal by defeating Alexander Bublik in straight sets in his singles match, then teamed up with Nikola Cacic in the deciding doubles for a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov.

Serbia reached the last four for the first time since 2017 and will face Croatia, which got past Italy on Monday.

Serbia broke serve at 2-2 and 5-3 in the third set of the doubles to seal its fifth semifinal appearance in the team event.

Serbia made it to the last eight as one of the top two second-place finishers from the six groups. It was second to Germany in a group that also included Austria.

Serbia lost to Russia in the quarterfinals of the first edition of the Davis Cup Finals in 2019. Its only title came in 2010 in a final against France, and it was runner-up to the Czech Republic in 2013.

Djokovic had to win his singles match after Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Miomir Kecmanovic in the opener.

Djokovic broke serve once in each set against the 36th-ranked Bublik to win 6-3, 6-4 and extend his singles winning streak in the Davis Cup to 17 matches. He comfortably won his first two matches in this year’s edition of the revamped team competition.

Djokovic had 11 break points in total in the match that lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes at the Madrid Arena.

The 182nd-ranked Kukushkin needed more than three hours in his 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (11) win over No. 69 Kecmanovic. He saved four match points, including two in the decisive tiebreaker.

Kukushkin was a break up in the second set but Kecmanovic came back by winning four straight games to even the match after converting his fifth set point.

Kecmanovic got off to a fast start in the decisive set but couldn’t capitalize on his five break opportunities to take a 4-0 lead. He then squandered two match points at 5-3 before being pushed into the tiebreaker. The Serbian needed medical attention at 5-4 but was able to continue.

Kukushkin saved another pair of match points in the tiebreaker before converting his fifth opportunity to clinch the win.

“This is why we love the Davis Cup,” Kukushkin said. “I’m just honored to play for my country and get the with for Kazakhstan. It was important for us. I’m super excited.”

Kazakhstan was trying to make its first semifinal appearance after reaching the last eight six times – most recently in 2018 when it lost to Croatia. It won its group this year against Sweden and Canada, the runner-up in 2019.

Viktor Troicki is making his debut as Serbia’s captain two years after his last appearance as a player.

It was a mostly packed Madrid Arena for the quarterfinal even though host Spain didn’t make it past the group stage. The Spanish capital was the sole host of the team event in 2019, but this time Innsbruck in Austria and Turin in Italy also held matches. Madrid will host both semifinals and the final.

A new venue for next year will be unveiled on Sunday.

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.