Jelena Dokic Tour Results: Interviews and Articles
"Interview: Jelena Dokic"
Guardian Unlimited Sport, UK
17th June, 2002
DFS Classic 2002 in Birmingham, Great Britain
Singles Final on 16th June, 2002
Jelena Dokic def. Anastasia Myskina, 6-2, 6-3.
Guardian Unlimited Sport
Interview: Jelena Dokic
The 19-year-old won her first title on grass yesterday and, with the
return of her controversial father and a favourable draw, could be the
player best equipped to challenge the Williams sisters at Wimbledon. By
Monday June 17, 2002
Given that her rivals are built like Amazons, her dad has been depicted as
mad, and her home has three times been whisked halfway around the world,
Jelena Dokic's appearance comes as something of a surprise. Lightly built
and shiny-skinned, this elfin-faced 19-year-old scarcely looks equipped
for the world in which she has had to survive.
For those who don't know her conflict-ridden story, Dokic escaped war-torn
Serbia, fell out with Tennis Australia, was unable to settle in Florida
and found herself driven full circle back to Yugoslavia.
But she has remained loyal to the father who was ejected from two grand
slam tournaments and banned from a third. And despite facing opponents who
are five inches taller or 30 pounds heavier she has stayed in contention.
Against an unkind fate she has stood ruthlessly contemptuous.
It takes less than a minute to discover how. "You learn how to do it
yourself," she says curtly. "I came from a really tough situation and I
have had to deal with it."
As in life, so in tennis. It is with the same drive for survival that she
has coped with a cut-throat circuit in which last year she reached the
world's top 10 and next week at Wimbledon will be seeded to reach the
"I learned as a junior that you have to be stronger than everyone else,"
she says. "It was good for me that there was animosity from the other
players. I never had any help on the mental side. I don't like that sort
of thing - you have to figure it out for yourself."
This is Dokic's way. She insists she does not know self-doubt, speaks
openly of her self-esteem and says she is always mentally strong. Whether
or not that is an accurate self-portrait does not matter; this is the way
she has to tell herself to be, because that is what she has learned from
her itinerant family. "This," as she sometimes says, "is the way we are."
Whatever the potential damage of having imbibed such forceful resilience,
the advantages are obvious on an infuriatingly rainy June day in England
when her attitude is contrasted to that of some of her rivals.
The grass is damp, soft, and awkward to play on. Some players, more used
to the greater certainties of hard or clay surfaces, are inclined to give
up on it. Not Jelena. She, naturally, "can deal with that". The words are
beginning to sound like a catchphrase.
But all that uprooting, was that not sometimes a bit too hard to handle?
"That's just a tennis player's life - we have to be on the move," she
says, evading the point, which was about her roots.
She is more forthright about the media, alleging they contributed to her
decision to quit Australia. Putting up with the press is not so easy.
"Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for them, but I deal with that better
than I did," she reckons, and immediately proves her point by unmasking a
question hinting at some degree of shared technical knowledge as an
attempt to ingratiate.
Dokic does not use the flailing topspin strokes with the dramatic
upper-body swivel that can make it difficult to time the ball on slick
grass with a low bounce; instead she batters away with a flat swing and a
hissing that sounds as though it would belong at a Great Western Railway
reunion. Even if the noise were better left unmentioned, it seems like a
decent idea to suggest that her technique gives her an advantage. But
"It's the men who mostly hit like that [top, spin]," she scoffs. "Most of
the women hit flatter. It's not an advantage." She slightly lowers her
Better to have remembered how Tony Roche, then the Australian Davis Cup
coach no less, was dismissed rather sensationally in the summer of 2000,
ostensibly because daughter and father decided that they could work out
the technical side for themselves.
That is one reason Jelena has found it hard to accept that her father has
not been with her this year. As one would expect from so guarded a family,
the reasons for his absence remain unclear.
The explanation may be related to the six-month ban from the WTA Tour,
served for abusive behaviour in the players' lounge at the US Open in
2000, even though Damir Dokic is said to have become a reformed character
since it ended in March last year. But if relieving him of some of the
stress of supporting his embattled offspring might sound to some like a
wise choice, that is not Jelena's view.
"He wants to take a break. He's got some other things he wants to do," she
says in a way that signals she will be doing nothing to make her answer
less mysterious. "It would be better if he were here. But I think he will
be there at Wimbledon."
Instead Liliana Dokic has become Jelena's travelling assistant. She does
the organising, the packing, the laundry; she ensures that her daughter is
where she is meant to be on time, plans the journey and a dozen other
things which apparently Damir does not do. Mum brings loads of advantages.
Dad helps just with the tennis. Despite that, she still misses him.
The extravagantly bearded former truck driver has not been averse to some
embarrassing straight talking with strangers and has a liking for a drink
or three, but he has been around from the beginning of his daughter's
career and that is a massive building-block in their relationship. That
might explain why she denies allegations that he has been too tough on
her. But there is a pause and the old catchphrase clicks in.
"Actually I have to deal with them both," she says. This teenager passed
into adulthood a long time ago.
Curiously, Damir Dokic has one thing in common with Richard Williams, the
father/coach to Venus and Serena. Damir has helped his daughter without
having much background in the game. Williams has done likewise. He,
however, is said to have picked up his knowledge from books. Damir has
not. Which is why it amazes people that his daughter still claims him as a
"When you know your game it's not very hard to figure out what to work
on," Jelena says. "You know where you win your matches and where you lose
them. The two of us together know what we have to do."
But then the guard slips. "I do get homesick and lonely," she suddenly
confides. "So I would rather have someone from my family doing it all with
And for a few intriguing moments the real Jelena emerges. Of her little
brother Savo, a black belt in taekwondo at 11, she says: "We love each
other as much as you can." But does she have any friends on the tour? Can
she possibly have any friends, one wonders.
"There are some good people but I don't want to name anyone," she answers.
Jealousies are rife. What about Monica Seles (a former Yugoslav)? "We
talk. She's had one of the toughest of careers. Her father is such a great
loss to her." She stops. The Williams sisters? She becomes more fluent.
"I am not best friends with them but I talk with them more than anyone
else," she says. "A lot of people think they are arrogant and not good for
the game, but I totally disagree. Both have good personalities."
Dokic appears to identify with their predicament in a white-dominated
game. But she does not identify with their tennis. For the first time she
becomes negative about herself.
"Size and power are a big advantage - it's definitely more difficult for
the smaller players to beat them," she says. "They are a level above
everyone else. A lot of players feel that and they get down when they play
"The game is becoming like that. It's all just speed," she grumbles. "It's
not what it was 20 years ago and I don't think technique or anything else
The thought of Wimbledon shines through this little piece of gloom. In
three attempts she has never failed to get to the fourth round or beyond.
"Oh yes, I would definitely love to win this more than anything else.
Everything started for me there," she says of her defeat of the top-seeded
Martina Hingis in the first round of Wimbledon in 1999. "I go into every
year relaxed and confident.
"Maybe I have a relationship with the English fans more than any other
country. I've always had a lot of support every year. I think it's because
I've always done well at Wimbledon. In England they follow tennis more
than anyone else." Actually, it is Wimbledon they follow more than anyone
else, but it is best to let that pass.
For by now she is proffering a different view of those giant Williams
sisters. "I would have to catch them on a bad day, but they are beatable -
we have seen them beaten. The more you play them the more comfortable you
get." And the more she dwells on that thought, the more comfortable she
appears to become.
Physically Dokic is stronger than she was a year ago. She has needed to
become so because injuries, a problem until a few months ago, had to be
held at bay. How well they have healed may determine how well she does.
For if the body is properly prepared, this particular mind was ready long
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The interview article quoted from the Guardian Unlimited website - http://sport.guardian.co.uk/tennis/