but Wimbledon buildup disappoints.
Fit and healthy Molik declares comeback over but Wimbledon build-up disappoints
June 24, 2007
AS she puts the final touches on her game before the start of the Wimbledon tournament tomorrow, Alicia Molik is working just as hard to relax her mind for what she hopes will be a two-week challenge.
"I've never been at Wimbledon during the final weekend, except for mixed doubles a few years ago," said the 74th-ranked Australian, who enters the prestige major after an indifferent tune-up on the grass over the past fortnight.
"The most important thing over those last few days leading up to a big event is to use them to feel as good as you can. You want to freshen up, get yourself in a good frame of mind.
"It's all about pacing yourself."
Should the 26-year-old Melbourne player find herself entertaining any last-minute doubts, she only need roll back a few weeks to one of the biggest triumphs of her tennis life, the French Open doubles title, which she won at Roland Garros with her new Italian partner Mara Santangelo.
That victory in Paris handed the Australian a new lease on a career which looked to be coming off the rails two years ago when she was struck down by an inner-ear problem.
Molik has been back regularly on the WTA Tour for a year and declared her comeback over. "I'm healthy and fit," she said. "I may not have won as many events [she claimed three trophies in the last four months of the 2005 season and started 2005 by winning Sydney] but that's the nature of the beast."
A few days after the French doubles win Molik was straight onto the grass in rainy Birmingham in the north of England. In the annual confusion over the instant change of surfaces, she downed France's Severine Bremond before falling to unfancied American youngster Vania King. During the week, she was ambushed in her opening match as Britain's No.204 Melanie South produced an upset at Eastbourne, the prime tune-up on the south coast.
While Molik would have preferred to reach the London lawns with a few more wins, she made up the gap by playing in the quaintly named consolation event, the Strawberry Tea Cup, reserved for first-round main draw losers.
With Ł1000 ($2355) on offer for the champion, Molik's idea of laying down her potential prizemoney as a bar tab at the iconic Wimbledon Village Dog and Fox pub would surely be well received among her friends during the fortnight of the tournament.
Like most players, Molik will lessen her stress by living within walking distance of the club. Maintaining a low-key outlook remains paramount. "I'm not gauging myself on results, I'm not gauging myself on rankings," she said.
"I'm gauging myself on what I put into matches, what I get out of them, and my level of play within match play."
Molik's self-belief at a tournament where she has twice been to the third round (2003 and 2004) is high since the Paris event.
"I had a lot of confidence before this week," she said. "Even though I won a grand slam event in doubles, I know that I have a lot more work to do on my singles. That's why I'm playing these Cup matches. "If anyone had told me at the start of this European trip that I'd win a grand slam title, I'd take that any day. It's a great achievement."
Many players view Wimbledon as the top prize in the game, but that's not the way Molik sees things. "Wimbledon and the Australian Open are totally different events," she said. "As an Aussie, I'd much prefer to win the Open. It's in my backyard and it's my favourite grand slam to play. "After travelling the world so much, there's no place like home. It has a special place in my heart."