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Molik's dream run ends

by Nyree Epplett

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Alicia Molik's dream run at the Australian Open came to an

abrupt end Saturday at the hands of the top seed and

three-time defending champion Martina Hingis.

Molik's 6-2 6-3 defeat came in a brisk 51 minutes, the tall

Aussie unable to combat the Swiss Miss's dominating

baseline firepower and cleverly disguised first and second

serves. In stark contrast, the inexperienced Molik was

sadly let down by her powerful first serve, the major weapon

that had threatened to rattle the world No.1 Saturday.

Six aces, including a swag of untouchable serves from the

18-year-old Molik left Hingis momentarily floundering,

although a first serve percentage that lagged sorely below

the 50 percent mark, coupled with what Molik described as

"one of the best return of serves in the world" ultimately led

to the Australian's downfall.

"Martina's experience showed up. I knew I had to do

something special to beat her. It probably showed up in my

unforced errors and my game falling apart a little bit. You

expect a better ball to come back at you, and I think that

extra bit of pressure threw me off a bit," said Molik.

"I lost today to the No.1 player in the world. I am

disappointed, but I always walk away from a loss with a lot

of things I need to work on and a lot of positives. I don't

think I showed a lot of my best stuff out there today but

Martina didn't give me the opportunity."

Hingis, who has now played three up-and-coming

youngsters this week, remains focussed on writing herself

into the history books (again), aiming to become the first

woman since Margaret Court in 1966 to win four

consecutive Australian Open singles titles.

Her first career Grand Slam singles title came at Melbourne

Park three years ago, the victory making her the youngest

player (at 16 years, 3 months, 26 days) in the 20th century

to win a Grand Slam singles crown.

"I took it serious. I had to though," said Hingis. "They were

all younger than me, youngsters coming up, having nothing

to lose. Today, first time on centre court for her [Molik], I'm

sure she was a bit nervous out there and I just played a

good match. But her serve is just big. Sometimes you feel

like 'Okay, there's nothing I could do about that'."

"I'm here to play tennis and that's what my business is all

about and I'm enjoying it. It's not that I am not having fun off

the court either. I'll probably go shopping. I'm happy that I

finish my match right now so I can maybe go to the cinema

or something else," said Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam

singles champion, who is scheduled to play 1999 US Open

champion Serena Williams in the semifinals.

Said a refreshingly mature Hingis when asked how hard it

is to stay ahead of the rest of the field: "It's not always

easy, you see yourself, there are so many people after

you, they are chasing you. They want to get to your spot

and be in your position. I mean, what better situation - once

you realise what a life you've got and you see the papers,

you are in the picture and it's so much fun travelling and

meeting all the people. It's a great life, especially when you

are successful.

"Tennis was sometimes the easiest part out there - you

have to deal with so many other things, the media,

sponsors. I always used to be afraid of having a speech

after I won a tournament, now it's like so easy."