Jessica Pegula goes winless in singles in WTA Finals debut

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Jessica Pegula finished winless in singles in the American’s WTA Finals debut, losing to Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 7-5 in a round-robin finale.

Sabalenka had to wait for the outcome of the late match between No. 2 Ons Jabeur and fifth-ranked Maria Sakkari to see if she advanced to the semifinals. Sakkari has already clinched a spot.

The 24-year-old Sabalenka didn’t get out of the group stage in her WTA Finals debut last year in Guadalajara.

The third-ranked Pegula was 0-5 overall going into a late doubles match with partner Coco Gauff, who lost her first two singles matches on the indoor hard court at Dickies Arena.

They paired to become the first Americans to debut at the WTA Finals in singles and doubles since Lindsay Davenport in 1994. They’ve already been eliminated from group play in doubles.

No. 7 Sabalenka never trailed in overpowering the 28-year-old Pegula from the start, finishing with a 26-13 edge in winners and five aces.

The hard-hitting Sabalenka had three double-faults in each of Pegula’s two breaks in the second set, but closed out the match on Pegula’s serve with a backhand crosscourt winner.

It was the fourth consecutive straight-sets win for Sabalenka over Pegula since Pegula won their first meeting.

American Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands advanced to the semifinals in doubles with a 7-6(2), 6-3 victory over China’s Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan.

The Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova is already in the semifinals, facing Pegula and Gauff later Friday.

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

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
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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.