Alicia Molik: A Proud Billie Jean King Cup legacy
After 10 years as Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, Alicia Molik will lead the team for one last time at the 2023 Finals in Seville.
Every Billie Jean King Cup tie is a special occasion for Australian team captain Alicia Molik.
But Australia’s next assignment in the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals, at Seville in November, will carry more significance for Molik than ever before.
After a decade as the nation’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, it will mark Molik’s final tie in the role.
“It’s a decision that’s come with a lot of thought and a lot of planning and I just feel like it is the right time,” said Molik, whose long career in Billie Jean King Cup (then Fed Cup) began as a player in 1999.
“I feel like I’ve seen a bit of everything as captain. I was there for Ash Barty’s first Fed Cup match in Switzerland as a 15-year-old and to be able to see her through her retirement shows that I’ve been in this game for a long time.
“But it’s also been a fruitful 10 years with a lot of success. I think we’ve had a brilliant team (and) it’s nice to go out on a really positive note.
“I’ve given my absolute all to this team and am leaving it in the best place I possibly could have for the future.”
In a successful period for Australian women’s tennis, Molik can indeed reflect on a series of highs.
She notes that teams she has captained for Australia feature five Grand Slam champions across singles, doubles and mixed doubles, including Barty, Sam Stosur, Casey Dellacqua, Storm Hunter and Jarmila Wolfe (nee Gajdosova).
In her decade-long captaincy, Molik has guided the nation to two Billie Jean King Cup finals. The West Australian is particularly proud of the 2019 final, contested at Perth Arena, where a passionate home crowd cheered on the Australian team against France.
“A huge highlight through my tenure was the final we played here at Perth in 2019, because it was one of the last home and away ties where we were really able to showcase women’s tennis and top women’s tennis here in Australia,” she said.
In Glasgow last year, Australia was runner-up to Switzerland. Drawing on a strong synergy within their contingent, team members including Ajla Tomljanovic, Stosur, Hunter and Ellen Perez contributed to earlier wins over Slovakia, Great Britain and Belgium.
But standout performances on court are far from the only measure of success for the Australian great.
Even more important for Molik are the strong personal qualities she has helped instill in members of each team.
“I think the legacy that I leave is that it’s always been the players’ team,” she said.
“I’ve always seen that my job is to not just build the players up but try and equip them with the values and the foresight and team camaraderie that doesn’t just help them when they represent Australia during Billie Jean King Cup, but to try and carry that through on to the tour the tour too. That’s something I’ve worked hard to do.”
As she looks ahead to the final Billie Jean King Cup assignment, Molik gratefully acknowledges the huge broader effort in building strong Australian teams.
“I’m quite passionate and I feel very strongly about everyone’s role in the team being as important as each other,” said Molik.
“And also making sure that the players really respect the hard work and efforts of all the incredible staff … I think we’ve been fortunate to have incredible professionals working alongside our athletes to get them ready to play.”
Australian team coach Nicole Pratt, also a former Fed Cup team-mate as a player, is among the long list of people Molik thanks.
“I’ve loved working with Nicole and I think her professionalism and drive is something that is a real standout in her qualities and her attention to detail has really helped with our success as well,” said Molik, who added her appreciation for Rohan Fisher, also a coach to the Australian team.
The biggest thanks are perhaps owed to Molik’s husband, Tim Sullivan, who has provided crucial behind-the-scenes support for years.
“Tim has been incredibly supportive throughout my whole career and especially the demands of travelling as well,” she said.
“I feel really fortunate that I have an incredibly supportive family and husband that just encouraged me to sort of follow my dreams and goals the whole time.”
Molik looks forward to spending more time with her family – including son Yannick and daughter Mieke – in her next chapter, but notes that tennis itself will always play a prominent role.
“I love this sport,” she smiled. “I love it so much that we as a family are at our local tennis club five days a week.”
Molik’s early representative career helped fuel that lifelong passion for the game.
A former world No.8 and Olympic bronze medallist, the Australian will forever be grateful for the support of former team-mates including Rennae Stubbs and Pratt in her early years on tour.
She also fondly remembers the important lessons she absorbed from leaders including Lesley Bowrey, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and David Taylor (who was also Molik’s private coach).
The Australian leader is now keenly keeping an eye on the. nation’s next generation; she was delighted to see Kim Birrell make her top-100 breakthrough on the WTA Tour and notes the progress of young players including Olivia Gadecki and Taylah Preston.
“I think the future looks incredibly bright. It’s great to see the young talent coming through,” Molik enthused.
Ever the leader, Molik is especially excited to captain Australia in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals for one last time.
“We punch above our weight when we play in the green and gold and we proved that last year, reaching the final,” she said.
“And hey, we’re not finished yet. We’ve got a really fantastic team that we’re about to unleash in Seville.”
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