Molik's match-point misery
By Craig Platt
AUSTRALIA'S best hope of second round representation in the women's tournament
fell today when Alicia Molik, our highest ranked woman, was defeated by diminutive
Russian Tatiana Panova, despite having a number of opportunities to win.
The crowds were queuing around show court one to witness our best female player
in action, and all the early signs indicated there would be something to cheer
Molik won the first set easily 6-1, raising hopes she would defeat the No29 seed.
The two players were mismatched not only in size (Panova at just over five feet,
Molik just under six) but also in style. Molik relies on big serves and big hitting,
while Panova tears about the court at incredible speed, giving her a strong ground
game and the ability to reach almost anything.
Panova made a strong showing in the second set to win 6-3, but Molik entered the
third with renewed determination, initially gaining the advantage over her opponent.
Yet every time Molik seemed to be in a winning position, erratic hitting failed
her. A total of 73 unforced errors became the most telling statistic in the game.
The third set saw Molik get the opportunity to win the match - but on three separate
occasions she reached match point only to see Panova come back. The set dragged
on with Panova eventually winning 1-6, 6-3, 10-8.
"I tried my best, and I didn't win. It's unfortunate," Molik said after
the game. "I did have my opportunities."
Despite the loss, she appeared positive. "I'm happy with the fact that I
probably should have won that. I was in a position to win and she (Panova) is
in the top 30 and I got myself right there. So I can look at that as a positive.
"It probably shouldn't have gone to three sets . . . but Tatiana managed
to get herself back into the match. I wasn't really nervous towards the end of
the second set, but I knew I should have finished her off in that set."
Molik will now prepare to play in the doubles and mixed doubles, seeking greater
success than her singles effort.