Melbourne Park, 16 December 2010 | Tim Rose
Top seeds Peter Luczak and Alicia Molik have won through to the semifinals of the Australian Open Play-off after being pushed by talented up and comers.
Luczak’s opponent James Lemke came out swinging, playing positive tennis and going for winners in an entertaining contest.
Lemke was broken early after a pair of errors, and despite some impressive groundstrokes, particularly off his forehand side, was unable to hit back. The 31-year-old Luczak held on to take a 6-3 set win.
The courageous efforts of Lemke were rewarded early in the second set as he broke Luczak’s serve with a brilliant cross court pass, but serving for the set at 5-3 he was unable to close it out.
A short ball was punished with a Luczak forehand winner, followed by an unforced error which set up the break back.
The 22-year-old Lemke had another two set points saved at 6-5, before Luczak claimed the eventual tiebreaker and a 6-3 7-6(5) win.
The veteran was pleased to have to fight and play some positive tennis for the win.
“You don’t want to be hanging back thinking ‘what if, what if’,” he said.
“I knew I had to be more aggressive, that’s what I tried to do and it worked out.”
Watch live streaming from centre court
Despite having played in the Australian Open main draw seven times, Luczak said that he had no troubled motivating himself for smaller events like this.
“This morning I told my coach, ‘I’m actually feeling a bit nervous’. I’m 31, but I had a few butterflies in the stomach, [I was] actually a bit tight today,” he admitted.
“I think it’s a good thing. It means I still care and I’m still motivated. It’s important to get the wildcard, but more so to get some matches leading into the summer. If you win three or four matches here, you feel on top of the world.”
He next faces either the huge serving Sam Groth or the counterpunching game of Matt Ebden for a spot in the final.
See photos from the Play-off
Molik looked out of sorts early as Canberra based Alison Bai served brilliantly to keep Molik at bay, while breaking serve to take a handy lead. With a spot in the semifinals at stake, things didn’t go to plan early for Molik.
The favourite looked to attack the backhand side of Bai, only to see winners fly past from that side as the 20-year-old pounced.
Molik showed she wasn’t completely off her game, losing a shoe mid rally yet somehow still finding a way to hit a winner with only a sock on one foot. The comedic value of the moment was lost quickly on Molik however, as the chair umpire ordered the point to be replayed.
The physically strong Bai took the first set with a forehand that clipped the net and evaded the readied Molik racquet, a point emblematic of the set’s fortunes for each player.
With games on serve in the second, Molik finally found her range as her dominant forehand began to give her the ascendancy.
She broke at 3-all to go ahead, a lead she held on to before breaking again as Bai’s serve finally let her down.
Taking the momentum into the third set, Molik was too good for Bai, who took a medical timeout during the set. Upon returning to the court, Bai was helpless against the rampaging Molik who blitzed the remaining games to take the final set 6-1.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have that pressure on, where you have to produce or I would have gone down today,” she said after the win.
“It was a matter of doing the right things; believing in the forehand, the serve and going after it. [I made] a lot of mistakes, but a lot of winners too.”
When asked how far from her best she felt, Molik was typically honest.
“It’s hard to measure. My best was probably 5 years ago, 6 years ago. It’s a difficult one,” the soon to be 30-year-old said.
“I’m a different person, different player, different age now, but physically I feel great. I felt as fresh in the third set as I did in the first set, so I think that’s a pleasing sign.”