Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dancing Into Retirement

One thing I meant to write about last week and didn't because of the excitement of the US Open was the retirement of Alicia Molik, one-time world number #8 and one of Australia's best ever women's singles players. She announced it last week, and I kind of forgot about it, which is very careless of me. But never mind, I'll write about her now.
This has obviously been coming for a long time - when you take an amount of time off so large that you can appear on 'Dancing With The Stars' then there's something pretty seriously wrong. It was so sad for Alicia when she contracted that strange middle-ear thing or whatever it was that meant she could barely walk because her balance was so bad... actually, speaking of 'Dancing With The Stars,' I remember when she on it she said that she was fine as long as she could hold onto her partner, because he kept her upright. I also remembering wondering if doing 'Dancing With The Stars' was necessarily the smartest choice, if that was the case. She commentated at the Australian Open that year as well - I think it was 2006 - and you could just tell she was so sad she wasn't out there.
That was the beginning of the end for Alicia - but I remember the beginning of the beginning as well. It was around the same time that Jelena Dokic was playing for Australia. All the media attention was focused on her (and her dad, Damir... overbearing sports dads like Yuri Sharapov are often still referred to as Damirs in the vernacular, which I find very amusing!) So Molik came up quietly in the Dokic maelstrom. No one really knew she was there. She was very much the second banana for a long time. Then Dokic self-imploded and Alicia and Lleyton won the Hopman Cup and suddenly everyone was all about Alicia. She was an alternative to the chaos of the Dokic issue. She was simple and level-headed and uncomplicated and I think Australia as a whole really appreciated that.
If you asked me which of the two players had more talent, Dokic or Molik, I'd probably say Dokic. I wasn't exactly watching tennis critically when she was active - it was in my twelves to fourteens, I think - but she was explosive on the court, when her head was in it. Molik was never like that. As a tennis player, she was remarkably sane compared to Jelena. She was the tortoise to Dokic's hare, and it never really did her any harm. Both girls became top ten players - Molik reached #8, Dokic #4 - but Molik is the one who stuck around. And Molik is the one who is going to stick around in Australia's memory in the long term. Dokic is remembered - when she is remembered at all - for her dad and all the drama she used to go through there. Molik will be remembered as a good tennis player and as someone who seemed like a nice person.
Oh yeah, and someone who was once on 'Dancing With The Stars.'
I'm actually glad to see Alicia retire now, because if she kept playing, I think it might just get embarassing for her. She hasn't been the same player since she got sick, and although she's recorded some good victories here and there - I saw her beat Kaia Kanepi very convincingly at the Australian Open this year - she's also recorded some terrible losses, like that one at the Olympics to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. It is very sad to see her go, but now she can retire with dignity. She is no longer the flagship for women's tennis in Australia - I think that baton was well and truly passed to Casey Dellacqua at the Australian Open - and so perhaps now is the right time. Vale, nonetheless. Alicia Molik may not have been one of tennis's renowned worldbeaters, but she was excellent for women's tennis in Australia, and she can be very proud of what she has done.
Today's Results
BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)
Richard Gasquet def. Victor Crivoi, 6-3 6-2
Jose Acasuso def. Martin Vassallo Arguello, 6-4 7-5
Ivan Navarro def. Denis Gremelmayr, 6-3 1-0 retired
Teimuraz Gabashvili def. Adrian Cruciat, 6-1 6-2
Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic (Bali)
Flavia Pennetta def. Anastasia Rodionova, 6-3 7-5
Nadia Petrova def. Tathiana Garbin, 6-1 6-1
Tamira Paszek def. Sara Errani, 6-0 7-6 (7-2)
Chan Yung-Jan def. Peng Shuai, 6-1 7-5


Tennis Talk, Anyone? said...

Hey Jodi, what's up? I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Molik retiring. I was following her career for a little while there, and was really hoping she could bounce back from everything that was breaking down on her.

On a different note, though, I wanted to say congrats to you on Federer winning! I feel with your support of him, you almost deserved it as much as he did!--Van

Jodi said...

Thanks for the Federer congratulations - about time he won, all the time and love I've poured into writing about him! I was very happy indeed!

And it is sad to Alicia go... but it would be sadder to see her depart ranked #900,000 because of debilitating injury. At least she's retiring with dignity... she's sort of found a happy medium between #900,000 and Justine Henin...

Naf said...

I'm totally late on this ... because I just finished commenting on Molik in your other post, and I was very sad to hear she was retiring. I was hoping she'd be able to recover from that inner-ear thing. But thanks for the career background.