Revitalized Lucic earns first grand-slam win since 2002

Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:35pm EDT
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By Simon Cambers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Croatian Mirjana Lucic reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1999 as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, she was tipped as a future star of women's tennis.

Just four years later, she was all but gone from the tour, the victim of an abusive father and seemingly destined to go down as a footnote in the sport's history.

But on Tuesday at a sweltering Flushing Meadows, the 28-year-old Lucic was back and all smiles after earning her first grand-slam victory in more than eight years with a 7-6 6-1 first-round win over Australian Alicia Molik.

"I feel fantastic," Lucic told reporters. "I'm so, so happy. I worked so hard to get here. This is my first U.S. Open in, I don't know, seven years or something. It feels incredible. It just feels so rewarding.

Lucic burst onto the scene in 1997 as a 15-year-old when she won the title in her first tour event.

She reached the final in her next tournament in Strasbourg and was so impressive that Steffi Graf, who beat her, said she was better than she had been at the same age.

Lucic won her only grand-slam title at the Australian Open the following year, taking the doubles crown in partnership with Martina Hingis.

But after the high of Wimbledon in 1999, it soon became clear that all was not well in the Lucic family.   Continued...