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Molik on rise from Down Under
By Charles Bricker
April 13 2003
The Sun-Sentinel

Nineteen years have passed since an Australian woman, Wendy Turnbull of Boca Raton, finished in the top 10.

If Alicia Molik of Adelaide doesn't reach that heady plateau by the end of 2003, she's going to be close. Certainly at some point in her budding career, she's going reach the WTA's elite.

At 5 feet 111/2, she's imposing enough on court, though she is not well known outside Australia. However, had you seen her play at the Nasdaq-100, where she beat Daniela Hantuchova, you would have marked her name.

With her big serving, big strokes and head for tennis, Molik reminds you more than a little of Lindsay Davenport. At age 21 and No. 46 in the rankings, she now needs Davenport's experience and a lot more big wins.

"I'm playing well, but this is not something that has popped up overnight," Molik said last week from Charleston, S.C., where she missed the singles draw but found a doubles partner by the name of Martina Navratilova. "I think the standard I've set for myself has been there the entire year."

In her fifth full year on tour, she finally seems ready to take a giant step forward. Before the Australian Open, she won her first WTA title by defeating Amy Frazier in the final at Perth. Then, after making the round of 16 at Key Biscayne, she lost a week ago in the final at Sarasota to Anastasia Myskina.

In between, there was a scare. She damaged the plantar fascia of her left foot after splitting sets with Iroda Tulyaganova in the opening round at the Australian Open and didn't play again until the Nasdaq.

The injury angered her because she finally had strung together some wins. But it was clear when she arrived in South Florida that it was only a minor setback.

She's on her way next to Budapest, with a 15-3 record, to continue her clay court build-up to the French Open, and she doesn't feel pressure to put women's tennis back in the headlines back home.

"The pressure hasn't been so much," she said. "Anyway, I tend to ignore what other people think."

That sounds a bit like men's No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, with whom she has hit a few times when they were growing up in Adelaide. Turnbull and bigger names Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong were icons to an Aussie girl trying to fight through junior tournaments.

But why no woman has hit top 10 since is a mystery.

"I don't know," Molik said. "It comes in cycles, I guess. Why does it rain some days and not others."
 
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