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Mattographer
Dec 31st, 2004, 09:16 PM
Molik holds key to victory

By Scott Coghlan

January 1, 2005

BUOYED by her outstanding season-ending form, Alicia Molik is ready to spearhead Australia's bid for a second title in a significant change for the host nation.

In previous years, the female player has ridden the coat-tails of Lleyton Hewitt or Mark Philippoussis at the unique mixed teams event which starts in earnest tomorrow at the Burswood Dome in Perth.

But with Philipoussis's ranking in free fall, Molik will be expected to win all her singles matches after a career-best year in 2004 for the hosts to reach next Saturday's final.

Australia are unseeded for the event, but Molik and Philipoussis remain a firm second favourite, behind Russia, with sports bookmaker Centrebet.

Australia's only success came when Jelena Dokic announced her arrival on the international scene with three upset singles wins - one over Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario - to partner Philippoussis to victory in 1999.

With Philippoussis's ranking slipping to 109 and Molik climbing to a career high 13, it is the latter who looks to hold the key to Australia's hopes this week. Molik yesterday said she was keen to taste Hopman Cup success, having been frustratingly close at her three previous appearances.

Molik and Hewitt were set to make the final in 2002, but Hewitt had to withdraw because of chickenpox.

The following year, the South Australians made the final, but lost to the US pairing of Serena Williams and James Blake.

In 2004, Hewitt and Molik were again on track for the final before a foot injury to Molik brought a premature end to their tournament.

Molik, coming off the best year of her career, said she was ready to go in Perth.

"I took a couple of weeks off, but I think I have my focus back and I'm as well prepared as I could be for the summer," Molik said. "I had a great end to the season last year and I'm still rolling with that.

"I can definitely see Mark and I on that final day - I think we are going to do very well this week."

Molik has won six of her nine singles matches at the Hopman Cup - a record that includes a loss to Belgian star Kim Clijsters, when the Australian forfeited due to a foot injury during a tight third set.

The Australians are grouped in with the Slovak Republic, defending champions the US, and the winner of today's play-off tie between The Netherlands and Zimbabwe.

The withdrawal of Lindsay Davenport from the US team has opened up group B.

The locals open their tournament against the Slovak Republic combination of Daniela Hantuchova and Dominik Hrbaty on Monday.

Molik will be favoured to win all her singles encounters, against Meghann Shaughnessy, Hantuchova and either Michaella Krajicek, the younger sister of Richard, or Cara Black.

Russia are even-money favourites for the title with their powerful team of Marat Safin and Anastasia Myskina.

The tournament is also the first step on the comeback trail for Blake, who celebrated the New Year in Perth, and German Tommy Haas. Blake lost his father last year, sustained a broken neck and then struggled with a virus that affected his eyesight.

The gifted Haas has battled injury since reaching No.2 in the world in 2002, a recurring shoulder problem derailing his career. He had surgery in 2003 and made steady improvement last year to reach a ranking of 18.

The Australian

Prizeidiot
Jan 1st, 2005, 05:09 AM
Interesting.... I still hope Russia wins though... just because they have Marat :p

Lemonskin.
Jan 1st, 2005, 10:33 AM
Go Alicia :D