An Old Article
They were selling old mags quite cheap and there was one with a fairly lengthy article on Alicia. Dunno if it has been posted or not but hey, I figure people wouldn't mind reading it again. Hope you enjoy.
Alicia in Wonderland
When it comes to opportunity, Alicia Molik is creating her own magic. She speaks with Vivienne Christie
As a child, Alicia Molik used to beg her mother to buy her the same tennis outfits worn by her hero, Steffi Graf. The irony in the memory is that some ten to fifteen years later, young players across Australia are probably nagging their mums to buy Alicia Molik outfits. More pointedly, if the Molik of today could meet Steffi in her prime, she'd be ready to give the German legend a run for her money.
Working with coach David Taylor for the past three years, 23-year-old Molik has improved immeasurably in technique. Having won her first WTA title last year and following up with two career finals shortly afterwards, she's made even bigger gains in the confidence department. It's only a matter of time, she says, before the bigger wins come her way.
"I think last year was a huge year for me. I was out for a good four months but I still created a lot of opportunities for myself," Molik says. "I've still got gains to make but at the same time, I feel like I'm creating a lot of opportunities."
By September last year, Molik had risen to a career-high ranking World No. 33, jumping more than 60 places from the beginning of the year. The breakthrough year included a number of wins over higher-ranked opponents. Were it not for some injury interruptions, there is no doubt that Molik's achievements would have been even greater.
With the narrowing of that gap between herself and the bigger name players comes a reluctance for Molik to accept anything other than the absolute best in her performances – which means, at times, a greater disappointment with losses she once might have accepted.
"One thing that's been clear over the 12-18 months is that my standards have lifted. I expect more of myself every time I walk on the court. Every match," Molik stresses. "Even if I've won but haven't played a great match, you're never satisfied. I think that's been important in gains and the steps that I've made with my game to become a better player."
Nowhere was that point illustrated more than at the recent Australian Open, when Molik lost to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round. Rather than acknowledging the fact that it was her best showing in a Grand Slam, Molik pointed to having missed the chance to reach the quarter-finals.
"Against those top players there are only one, two, maybe three points that basically can turn a match. It's those sort of opportunities that you really need to take," she reflects.
Given that Mauresmo was forced to withdraw with a back injury before the quarter-final was even played, Molik could be excused for feeling a sense of bitterness. Her overwhelming feeling, however, was one of empathy.
"I know what it feels like when you're playing great tennis and have to retire. It's no fun whatsoever to have to do it. I've had to do it a couple of times now. More than anything I sympathised," she says.
In the first round of Australian Open 2003, Molik was forced to retire in her match against Iroda Tulyaganova with a right foot injury. That problem kept her off the tour for the next two months and Molik's good form was further interrupted later in the year when the same injury occurred in her left foot. The injury flared at the 2004 Hopman Cup, where Molik had again teamed with Lleyton Hewitt in reaching the final.
Molik says she is in full health now, thanks largely in part to continued treatment and adapting her routines so that less pressure is placed on her both her feet and legs. But while she has experienced more than her share of problems, Molik says the argument for a shorter season to prevent such problems isn't necessarily that strong.
"I think tennis players in particular find it really difficult to rest. It would be nice to have more off weeks but people are still going to be training anyway, so I don't think it will have that much more of an impact," she explains.
This month Molik's schedule takes her to Russia for Fred Cup and then it's on to Europe for the French Open and Wimbledon. With one of the biggest serves on the tour, Molik is touted as a danger player at the All England Club – a prospect that gives the Melburnian a certain buzz.
"Wimbledon is so different," says. "It feels like a fairy land walking in the gates. It's something that I've seen on the TV for so long and so many years and to suddenly be there and in amongst it all is pretty awesome."
Molik attributes the serve, her primary weapon, to some sound advice in her early years and working hard to ensure it stays strong. "I think I remember getting a few free points off it from a young age. I was taught the kick serve pretty early," she recalls. "It's definitely one of my strong points but in saying that, it's something that I've had to work on as well. I think that from that young age is was important to have the right coaching."
Molik says that labelling her as a classic serve volleyer (a common occurrence) is actually a mistake. While she enjoys coming into the net it's not a tactic that comes naturally, particularly given that she's spent so much time honing her now-powerful groundstrokes from the back of the court.
"I have to keep reminding myself and encouraging myself to attack and get to the net. It's very easy to become complacent and try and win the points from the back of the court," she explains.
And while Wimbledon might be a Grand Slam where her name stands out, Molik says grass is not her most preferred surface. She'd rather compete on a medium pace high bouncing court, where her fast serves take off, like Rebound Ace.
It's no surprise then, that the South Australian-born Molik labels the Australian summer circuit as her favorite time of the year. While some players experience increased pressure playing in front of their home crowds, Molik says it's something she has learnt to enjoy.
"When I was younger there was just a little bit of pressure. Playing in your home country there's a lot of expectations but now that I'm a bit older I've just learnt to treat it like other Grand Slams, like other tournaments. I actually enjoy being at home, in a home environment and having friends around and family around. It's my favorite time of the year now."
Pressure, in fact, is one element that's been missing from Molik's career from the very beginning. "Alicia Molik the tennis player is a tennis player because I've always had the choice," she says. "Mum and Dad just encourage me and that's it full stop. There's never been one iota of pressure, which I think in this day and age is pretty rare."
Molik was introduced to tennis when she tagged along with older brother Richard to coaching lessons in her hometown of Adelaide as a six-year-old. Her appetite for sport grew with a childhood spent playing games with the other kids in her street and after excelling in a range of activities, including basketball, netball, swimming and athletics, the idea of a professional career started to take shape.
"From a young age. I remember watching tennis on TV and always dreaming and wishing that I'd be a player," she remembers. "I always wished it would happen. I never had a B plan."
But while the competitive fire might have been burning for most of her life, Molik quickly reverts to her good-natured self when she steps off the court.
"I don't have any enemies that's for sure," she says, "I get along pretty well with a lot of people. I don't have a lot of hang-ups. I take thins pretty lightly when they need to be taken lightly. I just work hard and enjoy myself."
It's that down-to-earth approach that sees Molik looking for the positives in any situation – including the demands of travelling to a different location week after week, which I soften labelled as one of the toughest aspects of being a professional player.
"I've learnt to enjoy it, I make an effort now. Today for instance, we went out on the dune buggies here in Qatar. I think it's really important to enjoy your travel. Every single place that we go to, David(my coach) and I, we try to do different things. The last time we were in Moscow we went and saw the Bolshoi Ballet.
I try get and out and about and see a lot and really make the experience worthwhile. I think it's so easy to get caught up in training – going to the courts and going to the hotel and not making an effort to go out and see things."
Molik feels equally positive about returning home to her South Yarra base in Melbourne, which she tries to do every couple of months. The chance to recharge her batteries, which she does by catching up with friends and family for good food and wine, shopping, drinking coffee and spending time by the Yarra River, is too good to miss.
"I know it's extra travel and extra miles but I enjoy it so much when I get home," she says. "That's really important to me, to stay happy off the court so I can perform on the court. It's no fun being away form home for five months. That's my choice and I enjoy coming home after every single trip."
Molik clearly feels an appreciation for most things in her life. When it comes to her tennis, she reserves the most thanks for the people who have been around her.
"There are a lot of people out there who have helped me in my career. They know who they are. looking back at it I think that I've been really fortunate. I've been lucky and I'm very thankful that I've been able to surround myself with great people and genuine people," she says. "To have people around you like that in this environment, when it's very easy to be selfish, is very special.
In her typically optimistic way, Molik refuses to be drawn into negatives that can come with being the country's top player – and that includes Australian women's tennis in general, which often flies under the radar of media attention.
"Obviously we don't have a number one right now, we don't have a number eight – Mark and Lleyton are up there at the moment. But you know I think it comes in waves and I'm sure there's been a lot of speculation, but every single girl is out there giving 100 per cent. Can you ask for more? You know I don't think so."
Rather than feel envious of the gains made by her male counterparts, Molik is filled with admiration for their success. Watching the Davis Cup final last November was a particular highlight and Molik especially enjoys getting out to watch Hopman Cup partner Hewitt, who she sometimes trained with when she was younger.
No doubt there are others now making an effort to be courtside and watch Molik rack up her own achievements. It's clear that the 23-year-old has become more than comfortable with her own success – which is bad news for many of her opponents.
"A few years ago I probably would have felt intimidated a and would have walked on the court feeling overwhelmed opposite someone like Serena. I could give her too much credit before I walked on court," she surmises.
"I walked on the court against Venus the other week and was really confident. I'm not overwhelmed anymore, I'm not in awe of those players. They're only human. I'm a different player now and I enjoy those challenges."
Alicia Molik Fast Facts
Born: January 28, 1981, Adelaide, South Australia
Lives: Melbourne, Victoria
WTA Singles Titles: 1
Coach: David Taylor
Family: Parents Andrew and Teresa, brother Richard(three years older than Alicia)
Pets: West-Highland White Terrier Dog
Off court Interests: Good food, red wine, spending time with family and friends, bike riding.
Best friends on tour: Other Australian Players, Spanish doubles partner Magui Serna, Zimbabwean Cara Black.
Molik on Fed Cup: "I've always enjoyed playing for my country and I always will. It's always been very special when I carry those colours onto the court and I'm sure it's the same for all my other teammates.
Molik on a tennis dream: "If I could only achieve one tennis dream? That's a tough one. I guess winning a tournament is nice but probably a Grand Slam would be nicer. Why not in my own backyard at the Australian Open?"
Favorite places: Melbourne, Switzerland, New York (for a short time). "I probably prefer Europe to America but there's no place like home,' says Molik.
Favorite movies: The Castle, Shawshank Redemption, As Good as It Gets and more recently, Lost in Translation. "I've been in Japan many times and most of the things that have happened in that movie have happened to me. It was very funny," she says.
Favorite food: "I love Mum's cooking. I enjoy Japanese. I love sushi. I try and eat a huge variety. When I'm home we have fantastic meat so I try and have a steak. I think we're very lucky in Australia. We've got such great food and such great choice. Unbelievable coffee. I love my coffee."
Favorite music: Includes Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Coldplay and jazz.