Molik, Hewitt draw well
January 8, 2005
ALICIA Molik's Australian Open preparations received another boost today when she was handed a relatively trouble-free draw for next week's Medibank International in Sydney.
The sixth-seeded South Australian will meet Italian Francesca Schiavone in the first round and has landed on the opposite side of the draw to world No.1 Lindsay Davenport.
Davenport is the only player in the world's top six that Molik hasn't beaten but will only come up against Australia's big white hope if the two reach the final of the grand slam lead-up event.
The in-form Molik, who has won 26 of her last 30 matches, including three straight to open the year with a bang at the Hopman Cup in Perth, is projected to meet fourth seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarter-finals and fellow Russian Anastasia Myskina in the semi-finals.
Molik upstaged Myskina, the French Open champion and current world No.3, in the bronze medal playoff at the Athens Olympics and would relish another showdown with the ITF's international player of 2004.
The two other Australians in the red-hot women's field also received good draws for the $1.25 million Medibank International.
Teenage wildcard Sophie Ferguson will meet Bulgarian veteran Magdalena Maleeva, while Samantha Stosur - fresh off her maiden appearance in a WTA final on the Gold Coast today - will play Croat Jelena Kostanic.
Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne was a late scratching today with a knee injury that places her Australian Open participation in serious doubt.
The former world No.1's withdrawal elevated Japan's Ai Sugiyama to eighth seeding behind Davenport, Myskina, Dementieva, Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova, Molik and Gold Coast winner Patty Schnyder.
Men's top seed and three-time champion Lleyton Hewitt should have few problems opening his title defence against Slovak Karol Beck, whom the Australian demolished en route to last year's final of the US Open in their only previous career meeting.
Hewitt's first big test is likely to come in the semi-finals against either Taylor Dent, the serve-volleying American who upset the world No.3 in Adelaide last night, or his part-time Swedish hitting partner Joachim Johansson.
Mark Philippoussis, on the other hand, faces trouble early after being pitted against fourth-seeded Romanian Andrei Pavel in the opening round - should he be fit enough to play.
Any draw these days is a tough one for Philippoussis, who hasn't won a match since June and whose Australian Open build-up suffered a further setback last week when he was forced to pull out of the Hopman Cup with a groin tear.
Australian Wayne Arthurs drew Italian Filippo Volandri first up, while fellow Australian wildcard Todd Reid will take on fifth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. The week-long tournament gets underway tomorrow at Sydney's Homebush Bay.