Molik To Make Comeback
Published August 07, 2009 04:40
LONDON, England - Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik is preparing to launch a comeback after almost a year in retirement. The 28-year-old Australian hopes to compete at a $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event at Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory next month, but reportedly will first try doubles at Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events on the North American hardcourt swing already underway.
''She's hoping to [play in Darwin], that's the plan,'' her agent, Alice Estcourt of Octagon, told The Australian newspaper. ''But she's just playing it by ear, seeing how she goes, how she's feeling and will then go from there.''
Molik's career was sabotaged in its prime by an inner ear infection that affected her balance and vision and kept her out of action for the best part of a year. Cruelly, things started to unravel within weeks of her career reaching new highs, highlighted by a first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2005 Australian Open, which propelled the powerful right-hander, then 24, into the Top 10.
By that point Adelaide-born Molik had grown into the most successful Australian-born player in some time. Armed with a rare one-handed backhand and one of the most explosive serves in women's tennis, she won the first of five Tour singles titles at Hobart in 2003. But 2004 was her standout year. Among her three Tour titles was victory at Zürich, where she defeated Maria Sharapova in the final; she also defeated Anastasia Myskina to win the bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games. By the end of the season she scored five Top 10 wins and had cracked the Top 20 herself.
Molik's start to 2005 was even more promising. She won the title at Sydney, defeating Samantha Stosur in the first all-Australian Tour final since 1992, before defeating Venus Williams to reach the last eight in Melbourne, where she duly pushed Lindsay Davenport to 9-7 in the third set.
Afterwards Molik rose from No.12 to No.10, and would spend a total of 22 weeks inside the elite, including 12 non-consecutive weeks at No.8. She took Justine Henin to three sets at Miami but after a second round loss at Amelia Island pulled out of the rest of the clay court season, and a couple of aborted attempts to return eventually announced an extended break to recover.
Down and Up
After her return to the Tour in the spring of 2006 Molik continued to make steady progress through 2007, improving her ranking from No.163 to No.58 across the year and winning her second Grand Slam doubles title at Roland Garros with Italy's Mara Santangelo.
But in 2008 her trajectory stalled. By the time the Beijing Olympics had rolled around in August she had won just one main draw match all year. Laboring under an elbow tendon injury that refused to go away and questioning her "purpose", she decided to call it quits with a ranking of No.143 and nearly $3 million in prize money to her name. Since then Molik who has maintained her profile in Australia with TV commentary and corporate work, and lately she has been spotted training in Melbourne and Perth, looking fit and happy.
A successful comeback would provide another boost to the already buoyant stocks of women's tennis Down Under.
French Open semifinalist Stosur, herself back better than ever after a battle with the debilitating lyme disease, continues to underline her newfound Top 20 status: last week she beat Serena Williams on her way to the semis at Stanford and this week she beat Ana Ivanovic to reach the last eight at Los Angeles.
Former world No.4 Jelena Dokic, who followed up her headline-grabbing run to the last eight in Melbourne by teaming with Stosur to claw Australia back into the World Group II of Fed Cup, is said to have resumed practising in Florida after a bout of mononucleosis, and hopes to return to action at New Haven the week before the US Open.
And Casey Dellacqua, who was at a career high ranking of No.39 this time a year ago, is working hard to regain fitness following surgery of her left shoulder in February. The 24-year-old resuming hitting a few weeks ago, and while there is no word yet on when she will return to the Tour the lefty sounds positive, writing in her blog, "I feel like I'm definitely in the best shape I've been in."