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Molik to play Hobart
ALICIA Molik will return to the tournament where she won her first WTA Tour title after earning a wildcard into the Hobart International.
The former world No.8 will join seven-time grand slam winner Serena Williams in the Australian Open leadup event to be staged from January 7-12.
Molik became the first Australian woman in eight years to win a WTA Tour title when she clinched the Hobart event in 2003.
The Victorian already has a spot in next month's Australian Open after winning Tennis Australia's wildcard tournament.
The Hobart victory four years ago launched Molik up the world rankings and culminated in a top 10 berth before she was struck down by an inner ear illness.
Molik claimed singles titles in Stockholm, Zurich and Luxembourg in 2004, and Sydney in 2005, an Olympic bronze in Athens in 2004 and the Australian Open women's doubles in 2005.
Last year she was forced off the tour and this season has made a tentative comeback.
However after winning the Open wildcard tournament, Molik said her fitness was now as good as it had been before her illness.
“It's great to be returning to this tournament and to Hobart,” Molik said today.
“When I won my first WTA title here in 2003 it was the starting point for a memorable two-year run.
“Hopefully the Moorilla Hobart International in January will be a springboard to an equally successful year in 2007.”
The 25-year-old's inclusion further strengthens a field boasting 17 of the world's top 50 players.
The impressive player list includes Russian world No.13 Anna Chakvetadze, Dutch defending champion Michaella Krajicek and 2005 champion Jie Zheng from China.
Tournament director Michael Roberts said Molik would have to be in peak form to make an impression on the tournament.
“If she is to be in with any chance of repeating her success of 2003 she's going to have to be at the top of her game from day one.
“As a non-seeded player, and given the strength of the field, she's going to face really tough competition in every round,” Roberts said.