Local favorite Alicia Molik was sent crashing out of the Sydney International tennis tournament yesterday, dealing a blow to her preparations for the year's first Grand Slam event, the Australian Open.
Molik, a former world No. 8 who earned a wild card entry, failed to overcome the steady play of Czech Lucie Safarova, who won the first-round encounter 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (12/10).
Molik, who beat Safarova at the Hopman Cup just nine days ago, had her moments but failed to convert on the key points.
"Some days I play great in patches, often some days I'll be feeling the same as I did a couple of years ago but it's just a little bit patchy at the moment," said Molik, who won this tournament in 2005.
"It's just a matter of playing at a higher level on a more consistent basis," she said.
"I don't feel like I'm far from it -- it's maintaining it and not having these ebbs and flows that I'm having in a few matches," Molik said.
Molik was forced off the tour in 2005 after an ear infection threw off her ability to balance. She finished last year ranked at No. 58.
She was joined on the sidelines by fellow wild cards Nicole Pratt of Australia and Nadia Petrova of Russia.
Australian tennis officials were criticized for giving a wild card to Pratt, who at 34 is likely nearing the end of her career.
She did little to prove the critics wrong, losing quickly to France's Virginie Razzano, 6-2, 6-1.
Petrova lost in straight sets to Austria's Sybille Bammer, 7-5, 6-3.
Amelie Mauresmo's buildup to the Australian Open suffered a setback yesterday when she was forced to withdraw from the Sydney event.
The former world No. 1 from France was planning to finish offer her preparations at the Sydney International but pulled out with a groin strain.
"It's very disappointing to me that I won't be able to compete in the [Sydney International this year]," she said in a statement.
"Unfortunately I have re-injured my left adductor. I felt it yesterday during my training session and did not practice today.
"This is an injury that I am familiar with and know that it will not get better overnight.
"I know that I would not be 100 percent fit and ready to play on Monday. I have to take a few days to rest in order for it to get better."
China's Li Na also pulled out of the Sydney tournament yesterday because of a knee problem.
"The problem with my knee seemed to get a little worse after I tried to practice this morning and I just could not move very well," she said.