Melbourne Park, 15 December 2010 | Tim Rose
Top seeds Peter Luczak and Alicia Molik have survived treacherous conditions to win their matches at the Australian Open Play-off today.
Rain caused matches to be postponed after the first hour of play, with Molik leading Sophie Letcher 5-4 and Luczak up 5-2 against Luke Saville.
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With gusting winds and intermittent drizzle causing havoc for players’ serving and movement on the slippery courts, matches depended on who could remain the most effective, as aesthetics were forgotten.
The effects of the wind were most evident early on. During one rally, Letcher attempted a lob that was caught by the wind, sending the ball way long, almost to the back fence; even Letcher was able to laugh off the point.
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Both players faced stern opposition from younger opponents either side of the delay. Luczak’s win over Saville was testament to his class and fighting qualities, with the South Australian youngster taking it up to his self-professed hero, passing him with backhands and returning well to pressure the Luczak serve.
Saville’s aggression also forced errors from his own game, sending a forehand long to give Luczak a break before the rain hit.
Upon resumption after three hours, off court, Luczak wrapped up the first set and looked set to cruise to victory. It was Saville, however, who hit out to break in the opening game of the set and run away with it 6-4, sending the match to a decider.
There Luczak showed his experience, producing less errors to claim the set and the 6-2 4-6 6-2 win.
After the match, he paid tribute to 16-year-old Saville, whom he is more than familiar with.
“I know Lukey quite well, I’ve been fishing with him a few times. I thought he might get a little bit tight serving for that second set but he didn’t. He’s got a great serve, a world-class backhand, [with] a little bit more work on the forehand I think he has a great career ahead of him,” he said, with son Sebastian at his feet.
Luczak had a mixed year at tour level, admitting that he’d found it tough at times.
“It’s such a physical game, you just have to work on getting stronger, fitter, and doing weights. It’s difficult when you’re playing tournaments all year, you don’t get much of a chance to get a base going,” he said, also forecasting his possible retirement after the 2012 Australian summer.
Molik was tested by Letcher, who was the aggressor early, backing herself to match the bigger Molik for strength. The top seed was a little tentative on her stronger forehand side, which often acts as a barometer for her form, and Letcher pounced.
The delay came at a bad time for Letcher, who upon returning coughed up consecutive double points to hand the set to Molik on a platter.
The pair traded breaks early in the second, and nothing was to give until the tiebreaker. Yet again, it was experience that held strong, Molik pushing out to a 3-0 lead before taking the match 6-4 7-6(4) with another Letcher error.
Molik said she was pleased to claim the win with the prospect of more rain delays.
“I did the right things at the right time, and I served it out well in the tiebreaker in the second set. It was important for me to get the win before – potentially – the rain later on,” she said.
With it now looking certain that she will progress to the knockout stages, Molik said that her preparation would be vital.
“There is some very stiff competition for later in the week: Jelena Dokic, Sophie Ferguson, Jess Moore, so it’s very important for me to save a bit of energy so I can go up a gear come Saturday or Sunday,” she said.