Novak Djokovic to return to action before Australian Open

Caroline Wozniacki beats Petra Martic to reach quarter-finals of Auckland Classic

Belgium’s David Goffin of Belgium serves to Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis on day five of the 2018 Hopman Cup in Perth. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Belgium’s David Goffin of Belgium serves to Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis on day five of the 2018 Hopman Cup in Perth. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

 

Novak Djokovic is finally set to return to action next week after six months out with an elbow injury and will then decide whether to take part in the January 15th-28th Australian Open.

“After pulling out from Abu Dhabi and ATP Doha events due to pain in his right elbow, Novak is travelling to Australia where he will take part in two exhibition tournaments,” said a statement on Djokovic’s website (www.novakdjokovic.com).

“After the two events, a decision will be made about his participation at the first grand slam of the season, the Australian Open, where Novak has been crowned champion six times.”

The 30-year old Serbian is to return at the January 10th-12th Kooyong Classic and is also scheduled to take part at the Tie Break Tens evening exhibition at Melbourne Park next Wednesday.

The former world number one, who won the last of his 12 grand slam honours when he captured his maiden French Open title in 2016, has not played since retiring against Czech Tomas Berdych with the injury in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.

He pulled out of the Abu Dhabi event last week only hours before his match with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut after the pain in his right elbow flared up.

On medical advice, he also withdrew from the Qatar Open and now faces a final fitness test for the Australian Open.

Impressive performance

Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki continued to build on her WTA Finals victory late last year with another impressive performance on her way to a 6-2 6-2 victory over Croatia’s Petra Martic to reach the quarter-finals of the Auckland Classic on Wednesday.

The Danish world number three ended 2017 with the biggest title of her career in Singapore and returned a day after thrashing Madison Brengle in her season opener to hit 21 winners against eight unforced errors in the 53rd-minute win over Martic.

“I’m trying to stay aggressive,” Wozniacki said in a court-side interview. “I still made some unforced errors. It’s taking a few matches to play like 100 per cent but I still felt I played pretty well today.”

Top seed Wozniacki started brightly with a break of serve to love on her way to an early 3-0 lead and added another break in the eighth game to wrap up the opening set in just 24 minutes on a glorious day in New Zealand’s largest city.

Martic tried to mount a comeback early in the second when she broke for a 2-0 lead but Wozniacki won the final six games behind impressive serving numbers, including six aces, to book a last eight encounter with young American Sofia Kenin.

“I’ve worked on everything I need to work on in the off-season,” Wozniacki added as she continues her preparations for the Australian Open starting in Melbourne on January 15th.

“Now it’s just a matter of working out how to incorporate that into your match or into a situation where you maybe get nervous.”

Kenin, a 19-year-old wild card, knocked out compatriot Varvara Lepchenko 6-4 7-6(6) earlier in the day and there were also victories for Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova.

Hsieh eased to a 6-4 6-3 victory over Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure to set up a quarter-final clash against Strycova after the third seeded Czech edged out Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2.

Collision course

Former world number two Agnieszka Radwanska continued her strong start to the campaign with a 6-3 7-5 win over American Taylor Townsend, the Pole holding her nerve in a tight second set that lasted more than an hour to advance. Fourth seed Radwanska, who remains on a collision course for a semi-final against Wozniacki, next faces American qualifier Sachia Vickery, who defeated Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg 6-2 6-4.

World number one Simona Halep assured herself of top billing for the Australian Open after powering past local hope Duan Yingying and into the quarter-finals of the Shenzhen Open in China on Wednesday.

Halep hit 21 winners and won five out of eight break points to prevail 3-6 6-1 6-2 and secure her number one ranking going into next week and top seeding for Melbourne ahead of Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza.

However, the Romanian did not have it easy until her rival suffered a thigh problem late on in the match after blazing through the first set to take the lead.

Caught off guard by Duan’s big hitting early on, Halep turned things around in the second set and broke the world number 91 twice for a 5-1 lead before levelling the contest.

Duan took a medical timeout and returned for the decider with heavy strapping on her left thigh.

Halep, who battled past Duan in their previous meeting in Eastbourne last year, took advantage as Duan struggled to find her rhythm and raced to a 5-0 lead. She then subdued a late fightback to seal the win in 97 minutes.

“I knew that she is playing really hard and hitting every ball. I knew I had to be strong on my legs,” Halep said.

“After the first set I was thinking I have to find rhythm, to stay closer to the baseline and open the court better, which I did... It was a very tough match.”

Halep’s compatriot and fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu overcame Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6 6-1 6-2. She was joined in the quarter-finals by Czech Katerina Siniakova who beat China’s Wang Yafan 7-5 6-3.

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