Woody backs Hewitt at Open
By Dan Oakes
January 9, 2005
Twelve-Time grand slam doubles winner Mark Woodforde has strongly backed Lleyton Hewitt to put his Australian hardcourt championships disappointment behind him and take the Australian Open by storm next week.
Hewitt's preparation for the Open was knocked off course when he crashed out in straight sets to American serve-volleyer Taylor Dent in the quarter-finals. Dent will now play Sweden's Joachim Johansson in today's final.
But Woodforde, the Adelaide tournament's director, said Australia's world No. 3 was mentally stronger than he had seen him and that the shock loss to Dent did not point to more fundamental problems with Hewitt's game.
"I don't think I've seen him as relaxed before in other years," Woodforde said. "He seemed very confident of how he's played this week, even though it was a loss last night. I think he's maturing now."
Woodforde also stuck his neck out and predicted that the one-time US Open and Wimbledon champion would put in his best performance at Melbourne Park, where he has not progressed beyond the fourth round.
"I would be very surprised if he doesn't better his best result. I would be shocked if he didn't pass the fourth round," Woodforde said.
Hewitt said after his loss that he had had three rounds of valuable match practice at Memorial Drive and that he had been hitting the ball well in training, so he was not pressing the "panic button" yet.
"When you've been No. 1 in the world for a couple of years and you've won a couple of slams or whatever, you look at the big picture and what motivates you and that's the grand slams, and Melbourne's the one for me of any of the four," he said.
Hewitt heads next to the Sydney International, which he has won three times.
Mark Philippoussis was included in the draw, but if he declares himself fit to play despite injuring his groin muscles in Perth last week, he faces a tough task against fourth-seeded Romanian Andrei Pavel in the opening round.
Philippoussis has requested a late start to the tournament after injuring his groin last Wednesday.
Of the other Australian men, Wayne Arthurs drew Italian Filippo Volandri first up, while fellow wildcard Todd Reid will take on fifth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Alicia Molik's Australian Open preparations received a boost when she was handed a relatively trouble-free draw. The sixth-seeded South Australian will meet Italian Francesca Schiavone in the first round and has landed on the opposite side of the draw to world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, the only player in the world's top six that Molik hasn't beaten.
Favourable draw for locals in Sydney
By Darren Walton
January 9, 2005
Alicia Molik's Australian Open preparations received another boost when she was handed a relatively trouble-free draw for the Medibank International in Sydney this week.
The sixth-seed will meet Italian Francesca Schiavone in the first round and has landed on the opposite draw to world No.1 Lindsay Davenport.
Davenport is the only player in the world's top six that Molik hasn't beaten but they will play each other only if they reach the final of the grand slam lead-up event.
Molik has won 26 of her past 30 matches, including three straight to open the year at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The two other Australians in the women's field received good draws for the $1.25 million tournament.
Teenage wildcard Sophie Ferguson will meet Bulgarian veteran Magdalena Maleeva, and Samantha Stosur - fresh from her maiden appearance in a WTA final on the Gold Coast yesterday - will play Croat Jelena Kostanic.
Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne withdrew yesterday with a knee injury that puts her in doubt for the Australian Open. The former world No.1's withdrawal elevated Japan's Ai Sugiyama to eighth seeding behind Davenport, Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova, Molik and Gold Coast winner Patty Schnyder.
Men's top seed and three-time champion Lleyton Hewitt should have few problems opening his title defence against Slovak Karol Beck, whom the Australian demolished on the way to the 2004 US Open final in their only previous meeting.
Hewitt's first big test is likely to come in the semi-finals against either Taylor Dent, the serve-volleying American who upset the world No.3 in Adelaide on Friday night, or his part-time Swedish hitting partner Joachim Johansson.
Meanwhile, Mark Philippoussis faces trouble early after being pitted against fourth-seeded Romanian Andrei Pavel in the opening round - should he be fit enough to play.
Any draw these days is tough for Philippoussis, who hasn't won a match since June and whose Australian Open build-up was set back during the week when he pulled out of the Hopman Cup with a groin tear.
Wayne Arthurs drew Italian Filippo Volandri and fellow Australian wildcard Todd Reid will take on fifth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.