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Molik halted by Hingis

Saturday, 22 January, 2000

by NABILA AHMED

On 22 January, 1999, before she was Australia's top woman

player and before she made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon,

Jelena Dokic had to face Martina Hingis on Melbourne Park's

centre court for a third round clash in the Australian Open. She

was beaten 6-1 6-2.

Exactly one year on, another young, right-handed Australian

hope, Alicia Molik, today took to the newly-named Rod Laver

Arena for her bout against the three-time reigning champion and

world number one Martina Hingis.

This time, although the score-line was a little less one-sided, the result was still the

same, Molik going down 6-2 6-3. Molik simply could not match the consistency of

the Swiss Miss.

Playing for the first time on Rod Laver Arena, Molik was simply outclassed by an

opponent who calls the centre stage her home.

Molik began today's match shakily, with a double fault. Capitalising on her

116th-ranked opponent's nervousness, Hingis raced to a 40-love lead and the

Australian was soon broken in the first game of the set. In her first service game,

Hingis opened with an ace and later consolidated the break with an overhead smash.

Minutes later, with Molik leading her service game 30-00, the heavens opened and

play was suspended, while the roof was closed and the court mopped. Half an hour

later, when the players came out, it was thought the indoor conditions would favour

the big-serving Molik. But as Hingis pointed out after the match, she has played a lot

of indoor tournaments and having the roof closed did not disadvantage her at all.

Despite serving six aces to Hingis's one, Molik was let down in the match mainly by

her service, winning only 65% of the points on her fist serve compared to Hingis' 89%.

"Martina is, if not the best, then one of the best returners of service and you know the

ball is going to come back every time," Molik said after the match.

Molik conceded later that her return of serves had not been too good either. "I fell

apart at the returning. Martina served very well today."

With no double faults and less than half the number of unforced errors (nine to Molik's

19), Hingis played a consistent game today, not giving her opponent the opportunity

to play to the best of her ability.

But as Molik said after the match, she was given a valuable lesson today and comes

away from the game with many positives as well as a list of things to work on. She

still showed flashes of the fine form and audacity that got her into the third round here,

with a memorable near-ace to stave off one match point in what was her equal best

performance in a Grand Slam, having reached the third round at Roland Garros last

year.