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Mattographer
Apr 22nd, 2004, 04:42 AM
The challenge begins

April 19, 2004

By Mark Woodforde, Optus Australian Fed Cup coach

The Optus Australian Fed Cup team face tough opponents against the more fancied, well credentialled and highly ranked Russian team, represented by four women ranked inside the top 15 players on the WTA Tour.

We are not the favourites for this encounter but feel like we are a danger team.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley (captain) and I had asked the Aussie girls to arrive in Moscow on Monday, be ready to practise show our opponents we are hungry for a win and that we are prepared to do what it takes to help our cause.

Some of the team met in London pre-flight. Sam Stosur and Olivia Lukasewicz (the hitting partner), Chris Knight (fitness trainer), Janet Young (team manager), Evonne and myself arrived together on the same flight, Sunday afternoon.

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were given disturbing news. Nicole Pratt had faxed her withdrawal from the team due to a niggling injury that flared up in her doubles semi-final match on Saturday in the USA. This meant that Sam Stosur would be guaranteed a singles spot with Alicia Molik, leaving us without a true singles back-up if needed.

A huge moment for Adelaide's Olivia Lukasewicz as she was upgraded from hitting partner to team member and will wear the Australian colours for the very first time!

As most of us had arrived from extremely long flights, dinner was early and practice times discussed for the Monday. No joy with Alicia Molik and Rennae Stubbs arriving on time for the first day of practice - it was left to Sam and Olivia to wipe off the effects of any jet-lag.

The Russians were just finishing when we arrived at the stadium on Monday morning. Anastasia Myskina, the No.1 Russian and 6th ranked player in the world was nailing some accurate backhands to finish her morning hit.

After the routine inspection of the dressing rooms, introductions to the officals and a brief warm-up, the girls hit their first ball at noon time. Day one is to quickly adjust to the surface and the environment.

The two girls hit solidly. As we packed up, grabbed our team passes - Myskina came walking in for her second practice of the day........she is aware of our team.

Our full team will be intact by tomorrow afternoon, Alicia arrives Monday evening and Rennae at noon-time Tuesday.

What a difference 12 years makes

April 21, 2004

By Mark Woodforde, Optus Australian Fed Cup Coach

It's been 12 years since I was last in Moscow, playing in the Kremlin Cup, one of the last events held each year on the men's tour.

I can't say I have a pleasant memory of that trip. I won a few matches in both singles and doubles but was shocked at how repressed, poor and polluted the city was. I couldn't wait to fly out of there.

In early 1994, I went with the Davis Cup team to St. Petersburg, still plenty of pollution in a beautiful city that was caught in the midst of extreme winter conditions. We stayed in one of the best hotels, ate in the hotel every night, lost to the Russians and once more fled.

So when the draw was completed for Fed Cup and we drew Russia in Russia, my outlook was not positive. Now I feel quite different..

Since arriving on Sunday afternoon, I have been so impressed with the advancement of this city. Capitalism has made it's mark on Moscow. I see people out walking the streets, no-one turning around to see if they are being watched or followed, the pollution is reduced, the facade of buildings are shining, plenty of Audi's, BMW's and Mercedes weave their way on the streets, the sun is out and the temperature hovering around 16 degrees. The hotel (the same one I stayed in 12 years ago) has some class about it and more importantly - no food shortages!!

We've eaten in the hotel the last two nights and not been disappointed with European and Japanese fare. Tomorrow night we are heading out to a restaurant Alicia Molik has recommended from her trip last year. She won't tell us where or what style but we are going.

Our hosts have been quite hospitable and the set-up at the site is straight forward. They have prepared our locker-rooms, there is plenty of water stocked in the fridge with ballkids on hand to assist, and we have been invited to see the sights with a driver if needed later in the week. Such a different attitude from last time. All the better for us to feel relaxed about playing against such a strong Russian team.

Sam Stosur and Olivia Lukasewicz had a solid hit yesterday. Our No.1 ranked player, Alicia Molik, arrived on Monday night and joined the other two on court earlier today for another session. Alicia has been hitting in Switzerland on a similar court (thanks to an early loss in Portugal last week) and adjusted to the time zone already. Unfortunately for Sam, today was a tough one and her body is still trying to figure out which time zone it's in. She was aware that "day two" would be the hardest and actually adapted well.

Alicia was very solid in our first session, I think the court will play into her hands come match day.

This entire week will be special for Olivia Lukasewicz. Being added to the team after the withdrawal of Nicole Pratt, she must be riding high. I reminded her before we started this morning that she now has a chance to play her way into the singles - if she plays above herself. As a team member, she is not here to simply warm the other girls up, she has to believe she can play her way in to consideration.

There's more court time for her and being able to walk onto the court for the opening presentation in the Australian tracksuit, with our anthem being played in the background, is a fabulous way for her to discover what it takes to be a permanent member.

The late arriving Rennae Stubbs joins us for our second hit of the day and will have to keep up with the rest of the team's level - her penalty is extra court time and longer workouts for the next couple of days!

AUSBOY
Apr 22nd, 2004, 09:48 AM
Thanks for posting these, a good read!! :D

azza
Apr 22nd, 2004, 11:35 AM
Poor Stubbs :p

Mattographer
Apr 23rd, 2004, 07:57 AM
Poor Stubbs :p
Poor Rennae must feel like back to school with a teacher give her a detention :o ;)

SpikeyAidanm
Apr 23rd, 2004, 07:59 AM
why would she be upset doing extra workouts :sport:

azza
Apr 23rd, 2004, 08:29 AM
It's Thursday afternoon and we are closing in on match time fast.

Enjoyed a solid workout on court yesterday. Alica and Sam spent a good 3 1/2 to 4 hours doing drills to help them get used to the court surface.

Neither girl asked for any let-up and that makes me as coach very happy.

With these two playing out singles points, it leaves Olivia to hit plenty of balls with Rennae so Stubbsy can concentrate on what she is here for - specifically doubles. I planned to work Rennae quite hard yesterday but her foot has become a little sore thanks to the surface, so we focused on a number of reaction type drills, less running.

http://www.tennisaustralia.com/pages/image.aspx?assetId=RDM38097.4438990162
Mark Woodforde watches Samantha Stosur.

Poor Olivia, she has been doing plenty of hitting and not sure if she is used to the workload. We set up a number of drills with her at the net and she discovered why Rennae is one of the better doubles players. Olivia's game is based around the baseline more, not always hitting a lot of volleys - she found out she may need to spend more time working on that area.

Last night we went to a restaurant that Alicia had booked for us all. So we piled into the team bus and drove across town with the driver and our interpreter in tow. All we were told by Alicia was that it would be like sitting in a theatre with local fare to choose from.

We reached the correct street but she couldn't remember what the front of the restaurant looked like. Thanks to Dascha (our interpreter) we found it. I think everyone of us had a look of "wow" when we walked inside, it was magnificent. A flurry of white-gloved waiters sat us down and passed out menus, as we all sat rotating our heads to take in the main dining room.

I was given the booklet on the history of the restaurant (with menu and winelist), which more recently is known as the "writer's house". On the wall, hung a 16th century tapestry, the wooden staircase was carved without using one nail or screw and squeaked when stepped on. An amazing crystal chandelier donated by Stalin be-jewelled the main dining area. Once our order was taken, we were allowed to walk around the restaurant to enjoy its history.

Bravo to Alicia, she was given a toast by the team for taking us to a brilliant eatery. A bus was coming to pick us up for Thursday morning's hit at 11.15am and, as a result of still being jet-lagged, hitting for six hours and eating too well in the evening, I overslept until 11.30am!

I bounded out of bed, threw on some clothing and raced downstairs to see the team driving out the hotel. I returned to my room and received a message that the bus would return to pick me up once the driver had dropped the entire team off.

Geez, was I embarrassed when I arrived. We all had a laugh and got on with practice.

A three hour hit was enough for all the girls today. A late lunch, treatment provided to those who needed it, an early dinner and we are one day away from the opening matches.

SpikeyAidanm
Apr 23rd, 2004, 08:32 AM
Woodforde :lol:

Alicia's booking the restaurant :yeah:

azza
Apr 24th, 2004, 08:15 AM
:D :D

Mr_Molik
Apr 24th, 2004, 09:38 AM
:lol: at alicia