Jelena? She's a has-been, says Damir
By Alex Brown in London
December 1, 2005
Page 1 of 2
JELENA Dokic's return to Australia has the blessing of her estranged father, Damir, although tennis's most controversial parent believes his daughter has virtually no chance of re-emerging as a competitive force in the game.
Damir, widely believed to have brought more harm than good to Jelena's career, was adamant the 22-year-old's lifestyle, particularly her choice of boyfriend, was not conducive to success on the court.
"I think the decision to go back to Australia is good for her," Dokic snr told the Herald
from Belgrade on Wednesday. "But she must change her life and her coach. She must forget the boy in Croatia … It is a big mistake."
Speaking to The Times
newspaper in London this week, Jelena outlined her intention to move back to Australia - the country abandoned by the Dokic family four years ago after Damir accused Tennis Australia of rigging the Australian Open draw against his daughter.
"What happened before, I had no control over," Jelena said, in a veiled swipe at her father. "The decisions weren't made by me. This is a decision I am making."
Jelena will end her five-year self-imposed exile from Australia at the Canberra International from January 6-13 and is also chasing a wildcard into the Australian Open, starting the following week.
Jelena returns to Australia 345 places below her peak ranking of No.4, reached after making the French Open quarter-finals three years ago. Family problems, relationship splits and injuries have played a part in her rankings freefall.
But those heady days were always set against a disturbing backdrop, in which Damir's heavy-handed approach to training and penchant for controversy often overshadowed his daughter's deeds on the court. No longer. Having severed ties with her family, Jelena returns to her former homeland in a very different position: independent, alone and struggling to revive a career.
Damir doubts her ability to make a meaningful comeback. Whether made out of spite or honesty, his comments could prove to be the saddest chapter of a sporting story that had all the makings of a fairytale, but seems increasingly like a tragedy.
"I don't think she has a big chance of coming back in tennis," he said. "My opinion is that she should come back here [to Serbia and Montenegro] like before. Now she don't practise. Now she don't live a good life. I don't have any conversation with her. Jelena has not called in maybe two years.
"When she leaves the [family] house, she is finished. We are a strong, good family. She would practise hard and concentrate on tennis. She was good. Now she don't have nothing. Maybe there is a chance that she could come back, but I think it would be very difficult. Every second in her head she has problems."
Australian Open director Paul McNamee yesterday welcomed Jelena's decision to return, saying: "I think the fact she's coming out this week for the training camp and playing in the wildcard play-off shows she's doing the hard yards to get her game going and to try to make a fresh start here in Australia.
"She's trying to make it work. It's not a hit-and-run for a wildcard and then, 'See you later'. Not at all. I think actions speak louder than words."
While McNamee agreed with Australian Fed Cup captain John Alexander that Jelena was capable of breaking back into the world's top 10, he warned: "With the difficulties she's had with her career in the last couple of years, it will take a while for Jelena to re-establish herself. It's still a hill to climb. She's clearly got the game to be able to do that. Your talent doesn't go away. But it's different when you're 22 and you've seen a lot of life, like she has."
Tennis Australia boss Steve Wood also welcomed Jelena's return, saying: "She is now in a position to make her own decisions in life and we are happy to help her make that fresh start."
Damir, meanwhile, holds out little hope of reconciling with Jelena, and again blamed the management company Octagon and the Women's Tennis Association for driving a wedge between the family. Asked if he felt he was to blame in any way for Jelena's split, Damir was blunt. "No," he said. "I don't think so."
Later, when pressed on whether he would return to Australia with his family, as he previously suggested, Dokic snr was similarly short. "I am looking for my job," he said. "I make something like whisky, our national drink."
Still, the regret in his voice is clear. For so long the centre of his life, Jelena no longer wants anything to do with him. "My father and I have completely different ideas," she said. "We aren't on the same wavelength. I am not able to live or work with him."
And Damir, in turn, seems to have turned his back on Jelena. "I don't want to talk about Jelena's decision any more," he said. "She can do anything she wants."
Belgrade, April 12, 1983.
4. August 2002.