The shadow of the player who was once Alicia Molik made a fleeting, cameo appearance at the US Open overnight.
Molik, now ranked 203 in the world, lost in the first round to that giant of the game, Vania King, 6-3, 6-2. The 17-year-old American was celebrating the tenth win of her professional career yet the scoreline flattered Molik who was insipid throughout. She said later she was struggling with a knee injury.
This article is not to bag Molik. The point is to wonder how long it will take her to return to her former glory, assuming she can. Since returning to the tour earlier this year, Molik has never looked like regaining the top ten heights she briefly scaled before being forced off the tour with an inner ear problem that affected her balance. Overnight, her form was horrible.
In February last year, Molik was number eight in the world; now she’s on the wrong side of 200 and forced to walk through the crowd to get back to the locker-room after a whimper like today.
After the match, Molik admitted she was struggling with off-showcourt life, and nowhere is that more striking than at Flushing Meadow. As Molik told reporters:
There was Tina Turner going on, you had the court generators, you had the bloke behind us burning hot dogs that I could smell.
You had the generators drying next door’s court, you had a clinic going on next door where they were giving each other high-fives in a big huddle, yelling things out, and it’s difficult when you can’t actually hear the ball come off your racquet or from her racquet.
That also gives you an indication of the spin and the speed of ball. I airswung a ball today.
Being a professional tennis player, you have to block all those things out. I didn’t have the ability to do that today and that definitely contributed to the horrendous play today.
Australian fans planning on staying up all night to watch our nation’s tennis stars at Flushing Meadow shouldn’t lose much sleep. Molik and Samantha Stosur are already gone, both in straight sets, after Day One, leaving an injured Lleyton Hewitt, Mark Philippoussis and Nicole Pratt, who has won five matches in nine years at the Open.