Molik to double chances
By Margie McDonald
ALICIA MOLIK's coach doubts she will win next month's Australian Open singles crown
but Australia's highest-ranked woman will have a good chance of claiming her first Grand Slam title in doubles at Melbourne Park.
Molik is linking with US Open singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova
, one of four Russians in the top 10 in singles, to play doubles at the Sydney International and the Australian Open.
Kuznetsova is a former doubles partner of Martina Navratilova.
And should Molik's luck run out in women's doubles, then it might come in mixed doubles with Todd Woodbridge in Melbourne.
"I haven't asked him yet but I will," Molik said in Sydney yesterday where she is working with coach David Taylor before heading home to Adelaide for Christmas.
There is much expectation and excitement about Molik's summer, where she will enjoy her highest ranking - No.13 - after three tournament wins since August and a bronze medal in singles at the Athens Olympics.
"No secrets, a lot of hard work," Taylor said when asked about the ingredients of Molik's success.
"It's been cumulative and the dividends are paying off."
Not only is she a threat in singles but an attractive proposition for potential doubles partners.
Molik has a ranking of 17 in doubles while Kuznetsova is at No.8.
"It's exciting that people are talking about what impact she could make there (in singles at the Australian Open) but to be a genuine contender, I think that's a bit much," Taylor said.
"They're a real shot to win the doubles. They'd be seeded four or five so that's going to be good for Alicia."
It would be a breakthrough for both of them as Kuznetsova has been in four Grand Slam doubles finals (one with Navratilova and three with fellow Russian Elena Likhovtseva) without success.
Molik played in two mixed doubles Grand Slam finals with Woodbridge this year (Wimbledon, US Open) but lost both.
Her sterling results over the latter half of 2004 have encouraged Molik to improve on her singles record at a Grand Slam as well. Her best result is the fourth round of this year's Australian Open.
"I'm definitely more excited to go to the next Australian Open. Over the years I've learnt to enjoy it more. I enjoy the pressure, enjoy having my friends and family around, enjoy the fact it's in my own backyard," Molik said.
"Four or five years ago I saw that as a pressure."
At the weekend Evonne Goolagong Cawley appealed to the public and media to give Molik space and not to place too much pressure on her.
"Everyone wants to know a little more about you when you win but I think I've handled it pretty well. It's not distracted me from my tennis or training," Molik said in response to queries about coping with the spotlight.
"It's a positive thing. I think it can lift you more than anything. I'm not about to change my routine or hide away because there is a little more attention.
"I just enjoy doing my thing. I don't feel like anyone has been on my back."
Molik, 23, who has been on the professional circuit for six years, also knows she has a game to worry any player on any day. It is been the focus of her work with Taylor for a couple of seasons now.
"She's working on playing a very heavy game, a game that actually men play more," Taylor said.
"Women often hit the ball very flat but it's hard to do that when the ball is jumping at you with a lot of topspin and that's what Alicia has been working on."
Molik has had wins over six of the eight players who contested the WTA's end-of-season championships in Los Angeles last month. And this year she has also beaten four Russians all ranked higher than her: Anastasia Myskina (twice), Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova.
"I do have high expectations but I haven't set a goal or sat down and put pen to paper of exactly where I want to be at the end of the two weeks," Molik said. "But I'm pretty confident I'll be seeing the second week."