Jelena Dokic Tour Results: Interviews

The Age.com.au
Australia
10 January, 1999
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The Age.com.au - Daily News - 990110 - Tennis


      Sunday 10 January 1999

        "Beating on the door"

        By LINDA PEARCE

        TENNIS player Jelena Dokic has big plans: to be rich and famous, to buy 
        a luxury car and a big house. Doubt her ability, or destiny, at your 
        peril. That Dokic is still three months from her 16th birthday has not 
        deterred those who have dubbed her Australia's best female prospect 
        since Evonne Goolagong.

        And nothing seems to bother the new darlinginwaiting. At the Hopman Cup, 
        the growing whisper that here, finally, was a talent to crow about, 
        became a nationally televised announcement. Plait flapping, smile 
        beaming and groundstrokes blazing, Dokic overcame a nervous thrashing 
        from Amanda Coetzer to spank top15 pair Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and 
        Sandrine Testud, and then hold her nerve against Asa Carlsson.

        Those who had not heard of Dokic, despite her No.1 world junior ranking 
        and Fed Cup heroics in July, will now be wiser. There were no computer 
        points at stake and nothing to lose, but it was her ability to learn 
        from her tactical mistakes against Coetzer and add variety to her 
        hardhitting baseline game that impressed most.

        "It was unbelievable watching her play today," said Dokic's Perth 
        teammate Mark Philippoussis. "There was just no stopping her. Some of 
        the shots she was coming up with, it was just great. Fifteen years old 
        and full of confidence, it sort of reminds me of when I was 17. It's 
        fun. She's a great little girl."

        Dokic gained experience, which is what she most lacks, and confidence. 
        She is refreshingly honest, her manner friendly and her gaze clear and 
        direct. Distinguishing features are the mole on her chin and an 
        unshakeable selfbelief.

        "I played well and usually when I play well, I dominate," she said 
        after her public comingofage against Sanchez Vicario. "It feels like it 
        is just another win, but it is a lot more than that. It was a very 
        important match for me and a very good win."

        Off the court, Dokic is an interesting mix of ambition and 
        selfassurance, naivety and childlike enthusiasm, feistiness and respect 
        for authority. Much of her guidance comes from Lesley Bowrey, her mentor 
        of 18 months. Bowrey is part mother figure, part teacher, part coach. A 
        halfhour interview with the pair is punctuated by animated, affectionate 
        exchanges.

        Bowrey: "I think like every coach, if you travel with a player, it's 
        more than just tennis. It's teaching ..."

        Dokic (interrupting): "She's really strict, though. I'll tell you that. 
        `Go to bed now. Get up now. Do this, do that'. Y'know, Lesley's more 
        strict than my mum and dad."

        Bowrey: "Oh! Jelena!"

        Dokic: "You are."

        Bowrey: "Yes, well, it's discipline that gets you through ..."

        Dokic: "But I listen to her."

        Bowrey: "Yeah, you do."

        The "y'know's" that so often punctuate Dokic's speech are reminiscent 
        of Jennifer Capriati, but she is determined to avoid the pitfalls of the 
        troubled former teen prodigy. Even so, since arriving with her parents 
        and younger brother from Belgrade in 1994, progress has been swift.

        Indeed, the contrast between consecutive New Years is stark. A year ago, 
        she was a talented junior whose family was struggling to fund her 
        interstate travel. Dokic saw in 1999 dancing at the blacktie Hopman Cup 
        ball and preparing to partner Philippoussis in front of sellout Burswood 
        crowds. Nike supplies her clothes and Yonex provides racquets. There are 
        no major sponsorship deals yet, but so much progress that farewelling 
        1998 was a sad event.

        "It's quite unbelievable that in a year I've done what I have," Dokic 
        says matteroffactly. "It's been a very good year. I didn't really want 
        it to end. I was just playing the juniors and wanting to do well there. 
        I didn't really think about how far I wanted to go; didn't even think 
        about playing Hopman Cup."

        ENCOURAGINGLY, Dokic has not restricted her activities to centre court, 
        where she thrives on the attention. She practised one morning with 
        Martina Hingis and was a regular courtside fixture. "She's very alive, 
        she's a good listener and she sees a lot," says Bowrey. "She'll watch 
        all the matches and she'll learn from them. She's not afraid."

        She's not afraid of anything, it seems. Tales of her determination and 
        work ethic under former state coach Craig Miller at White City, after 
        catching public transport from her home in Sydney's west, are already 
        legendary. Yet another case of an immigrant, or child of Europeanborn 
        parents, making good in a promised land. Think about it: Agassi, Seles, 
        Philippoussis, Kournikova, Ilie, etc.

        "Coming from backgrounds like that, it's always sort of tough for 
        them," is Dokic's theory. "I don't know, but I just get the feeling 
        Europeans are prepared to work harder. (They're) more determined and 
        fight more on the court."

        Sure, you may have heard it all before: Australian wondergirl swamped by 
        wild predictions of her dazzling future; that this one will be 
        different. But this one just might. Bowrey, an International Hall of 
        Fame member, is as confident as she can be.

        "Jelena wants it very badly. She'll work hard, she's very determined 
        and she enjoys the competition. You have to really love competing out 
        there to become a top player and a lot of players have fallen by the 
        wayside in the past because they really don't enjoy competing. But she 
        does. She is different. She's singleminded. She knows where she wants to 
        go."

        Another Dokic trait is her great hurry to arrive and the Perth results 
        have only amplified her impatience to play a full tour schedule, instead 
        of the four remaining tournaments permitted until her 16th birthday in 
        April and then another 10 over the following 12 months. The handbrakes 
        are the WTA age eligibility rules that she boldly labels "ridiculous" 
        and which she may appeal.

        For that reason, and a senior ranking of 341, her itinerary is yet to be 
        finalised, but will probably retain the junior grand slams for match 
        practice purposes. Dokic insists she would prefer to lose in seniors 
        than win in juniors; Bowrey's view is that you should play the junior 
        slams until you win them and, despite reaching at least the semis in all 
        four, Dokic was victorious only in New York.

        Bowrey: "I think it's important Jelena does play grand slam juniors 
        until she can get her ranking up there, until ..."
        Dokic (interrupting): "But then again ..."
        Bowrey: "Wait a minute ... until she can play more tournaments because 
        with the age eligibility rule, they can't play enough tournaments - 10 
        is nowhere near enough for her - and I think being at the grand slams is 
        very important."

        Dokic: "I don't agree with playing junior grand slams, because if I 
        play Coetzer and Sanchez Vicario and whoever else in seniors, even if I 
        don't win those matches, it's still good practice for me and then I'm 
        moving back to play juniors, not going forward."

        Bowrey: "The computer will tell us where she can play. I think that's 
        something for us to work out when we see where she's at."

        LAST year also brought the Fed Cup controversy, when Dokic and Nicole 
        Pratt were chosen to play singles in the qualifying tie against 
        Argentina in Canberra. Bowrey, the Fed Cup captain, was accused of a 
        conflict of interest, but there could be no argument with the result - 
        a 50 Australian victory.

        Dokic, in turn, threatened to stand out of Fed Cup play if the 
        illfeeling continued. She now seems to have relented. "If I get 
        selected, I'll play Fed Cup again for Australia, but I've got to get 
        selected and first I'm just going to worry about how I play this 
        summer."

        Already, her Hopman Cup success has altered Dokic's summer plans. She 
        will now miss Tasmanian Open qualifying, for which she was granted a 
        wildcard, but this week she will receive another into the main draw at 
        the Australian Open, guaranteeing still more exposure and experience as 
        well as prizemoney of at least $10,000.

        For Dokic, that is tipped to mean the start of some bigger cheques and, 
        eventually, the means for some serious spending for a family that 
        arrived in a new country not so long ago with nothing. So, with 
        Philippoussis as inspiration, guess what will be at the top of the 
        teenager's shopping list?

        Dokic: "Cars! You know how Mark's got a house in Florida, he's bought 
        the extra two houses next to him, just so he can park all his cars. He 
        just signed the papers. Can you believe that? He's got like eight cars - 
        Jaguars, Porsches, Ferraris ..."

        Bowrey: "But you never want to drive!"

        Dokic: "Yeah, it's scary driving, but it's good. You know all those 
        luxury cars, they're awesome. I'll see what there is when I'm 17 ... I 
        think I'll drive Lesley's Mirage."

        Bowrey: "No you won't! Not on your life."

        Oh well, so much for that plan, but Dokic has others. Big ones. Wait. 
        You'll see.

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The article quoted from The Age Online Website.

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