Molik will return with worthy support
The odds may be against Alicia Molik, but as Darrell Halim reports, her attempts to make a
successful return to professional tennis will attract great support.
When the word was out that Alicia Molik, the most recent darling of Australian tennis, was contemplating an
unexpectedly early return from an inner ear infection that threatened to destroy a blossoming career, I
But when such reports turned into fact, I have to admit that my initial reaction was one that, let’s just
say, didn’t inspire the greatest of confidence in a successful return to the top echelon of the professional
circuit that she had reached before being hampered by an inner ear infection from mid-April last year.
It’s only natural to question how an athlete will return from an injury or, in this case, an illness that
has interrupted a career on the rise.
In what appeared to be your average day on the WTA Tour in October of 2005, the reality of Molik’s illness
hit home. Images of this promising 24-year-old sitting courtside in tears, as she was coming to terms with the
fact that her childhood dreams had come to an indefinite halt, were hard to swallow. It was then that Molik
had finally given in to her debilitating condition.
Prior to the first signs of the condition, Molik had had an exceptional start to the 2005 season. She began
the year by winning her fifth career Tour singles title in Sydney to become the first Australian champion
since 1980 and carried her career-best form into the Australian Open where she reached her career-first Grand
Slam singles quarterfinal. A month later, she found herself at a career-high ranking of No.8 in the world. By
April, Molik boasted an impressive 14-3 season win-loss record.
It must be remembered that these results were no fluke, as all of this was on the back of a career-best
year in 2004. That season she won three Tour titles, including her first Tier I event in Zurich, and an
Olympic bronze medal in Athens.
In the period from April 2004 to April 2005 alone, there weren’t too many players who Molik hadn’t beaten.
Her biggest scalps during these 12 months included Amelie Mauresmo (currently ranked No.1 in the world), Maria
Sharapova (4), Nadia Petrova (7), Patty Schnyder (9), Elena Dementieva (8), Francesca Schiavone (11), Venus
Williams (12), Anastasia Myskina (13) and Daniela Hantuchova (16) – all quality players.
Clearly, things couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Molik but, such is life, she is about to return
to the professional ranks and will no doubt be more eager than ever before to do well.
The first sign of a Molik return was her naming in the five-woman Australian Fed Cup squad – also including
Sam Stosur, Nicole Pratt, Rennae Stubbs and Casey Dellacqua – heading to Seoul to compete in the Asia/Oceania
Group I play-offs. However, the Adelaide-born star isn’t guaranteed a playing spot as the squad of five is to
be reduced to four.
But to the relief of her many fans, Molik’s comeback will come sooner rather than later regardless of
whether she plays in the Fed Cup competition (although admittedly, it would do her nothing but good to ease
back into competitive tennis with some matches against a cast of predominantly second tier players in Fed Cup
competition and away from the hype of the media), as she is due to make a return to the professional circuit
at the Italian Open on May 15. She then intends on entering the Istanbul Cup the following week, while keeping
one eye on the French Open beginning May 29.
In fact, if it wasn’t for her commitment to the TV series Dancing with the Stars, apparently Molik would
have entered a tournament or two straight after her Fed Cup duties in Korea instead of returning to Australia
for one last hurrah with Darryl Somers and co.
After having a bit more time to digest Molik’s return to tennis and after giving greater thought to this
considerably significant event in Australian tennis, I have no doubts that, at 25, this big-serving talent has
a lot more to offer to the sport. Tennis Australia, along with all Australian tennis fans, will be hoping that
her better days have not been had.
In contrast to the questions and uncertainties that are always going to emerge in cases of an athlete’s
comeback to the top level of any sport, one thing is for certain in Alicia Molik’s comeback to the WTA Tour:
as a near-perfect ambassador of the game of tennis – both on a national and international level – she will
have the encouragement and support of the entire tennis community behind her.
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