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From Adelaide to Wimbledon, Alicia Molik serves positivity on and off the court

Alicia Molik, one of the latest inductees to the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame, reflects on her career, the value of local sporting clubs and the greats she shared the court with during her playing days.

Feb 19, 2024, updated Feb 19, 2024
Alicia Molik playing against Serena Williams at Wimbledon Centre Court in 2007. This image: EPA

Alicia Molik playing against Serena Williams at Wimbledon Centre Court in 2007. This image: EPA

Alicia Molik’s local seaside tennis club had her heart from age six, beginning what she describes as a “gentle and gradual transition” into professional sport.

“If I had no one to hit with I’d get mum or dad to drop me off with a bucket of balls and I’d literally serve for an hour and a half,” Molik said.

“I was quite content and happy playing the sport in my own space.”

It was a serve she would become known for, but first she’d be chosen for the South Australian under 12s.

Alicia’s Under 12s victories made it into the Canberra Times on January 10, 1993. This image: sourced via Trove.

 

“That was a big deal getting picked for a state team, receiving the South Australian shirt and tracksuit,” she said.

“I remember the day, putting it on, getting mum to take loads of photos. I felt pretty special being selected to be part of a team.”

Alicia enjoyed the sense of community she found playing for the state, working with her first coach Kevin Swanson, and says local clubs are central to the sporting ecosystem.

“The foundations were laid really early, and it was a great culture in South Australia I always felt going out to training and I always felt that everyone’s incredibly passionate.”

Molik competed in South Australian teams in under 14s and 16s. Her success at a young age kept her motivated and engaged in sport: at 15 she considered it for a career.

Now, as the Tournament Director of the Adelaide International, Molik sees the atmosphere of an Adelaide match as energetic as ever.

“The Adelaide Oval Drive precinct lends itself to a really festive mood,” she said.

“I’ve trained pretty much my whole life in the Drive – when I was a young kid I used to train there every single day so it’s great to be back there as well so often.”

Final match of the 2024 Adelaide International at Memorial Drive Tennis Centre in Adelaide, Saturday, January 13, 2024. (AAP Image/Matt Turner)

From playing her first Grand Slam in the 1999 French Open, to becoming the eighth-ranked player in the Women’s Tennis Association tour in 2005, Molik played on the world’s most well-known courts.

Alicia Molik retired from playing in 2011, and has taken on leadership positions in coaching and administration ever since.

She has eight International Tennis Federation titles and five Women’s Tennis Association titles in singles, with two ITF and seven WTF titles in doubles. She won bronze in the singles at the 2004 Olympics – the first Australian to win a singles medal in tennis – and took out the doubles titles at the 2005 Australian Open and the 2007 French Open.

One memory sticks out to her: playing centre court at Wimbledon against Lindsay Davenport.

“Despite it being a loss, it was still quite memorable,” Molik says.

“That was a really special court: so much rich history.”

Molik recalls royals were attending that match, and Davenport told her to follow her lead in curtsying – a tradition players had to engage in until 2003 when the rule was discontinued unless Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles were in attendance.

“I grew up watching Wimbledon on TV as a young kid so it did feel like a bit of a fairy tale actually walking onto the court being somewhere that I thought was not just a million miles away, but so unreachable as a young kid, I never really believed it could happen.”

​​Molik was playing professionally in an era of legendary sportswomen, with Davenport, Venus and Serena Williams, and Martina Navratilova a few she came up against and alongside.

“Players who really dominated tennis were competing at the same time as me – the bar was set,” she said.

“I felt really privileged to have played in that era.”

Molik was asked to play doubles with Navratilova and in that time the two placed runner-up in the 2003 DFS Classic.

“I loved every minute on the court with her; that’s when she had come back just to play doubles. That was a remarkable part of my tennis journey as well, learning so much from her.

“Someone I watched on TV as a kid, you know, a superstar and all of a sudden seeing them at tournaments and they asked me to play doubles, it was a bit of a spin out.”

Throughout her career, Molik says her greatest rivals have been her greatest friends, and that’s something she values as a leader today.

“Wanting to beat each other in the heat of the moment, even if you are friends and teammates is really healthy,” she said.

“I want to see competitive spirits among each other, you can still walk away and be mates off the court.

“There can be a lot of jealousy in girls’ sports, and I don’t think there’s much room for jealousy, because your goal is to be as good as you can be.

“If people are better than you, I see that as a positive, because that’s your next benchmark, to try and improve so you can match up with them.”

Molik in her role as Billie Jean King Cup Captain giving pointers to Storm Sanders. This image: AP

Molik emphasises the importance of self-reliance and women supporting each other off the court. In her recent role as Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup (previously named Federation Cup) captain, she’s enjoyed setting standards and encouraging the players to have a can-do attitude.

“That was probably my biggest mantra for the team, encouraging our women and making sure that they’re positive about their futures,” she says.

The latest inductees to the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame will be announced at Adelaide Oval on March 1. For details and tickets, go here.

Read InDaily throughout February as we reveal this year’s inductees.

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