Dokic inspired by Pierce
By John Salvado
December 5, 2005
JELENA Dokic will draw inspiration from Mary Pierce as she attempts to resurrect her flagging tennis career as an Australian.
Back on court ... Dokic practises at Melbourne Park today. Pic: AAP
Almost five years since fleeing the country in a whirlwind of controversy after her father Damir claimed the draw for the 2001 Australian Open was rigged against her, Dokic returned to the practice courts at Melbourne Park today.
Now a lowly No.349 in the world rankings, 22-year-old Dokic hopes to earn a wildcard to the first grand slam tournament of 2006 in a qualifying event later this month.
But even if she comes up short, tournament organisers are certain to give the former Wimbledon semi-finalist a wildcard.
Dokic, who was once ranked as high as No.4, said she was not under-estimating how difficult it would be to again reach the heights.
Now estranged from her controversial father and former coach Damir, Dokic planned to draw from the example of French veteran Pierce, who was once forced to take out a restraining order against her father and ex-coach Jim.
After several years in the doldrums when her year-end ranking slipped as low as No.130 in 2001, Pierce was able to come back and reach the French and US Open finals this year and finished the season ranked in the top five at the age of 30.
"I can play so much more relaxed now and enjoy it so much more," Dokic said today.
"I've already proved that I can play well, I've had good results so now I can just enjoy my tennis, enjoy every shot I play.
"Mary Pierce has done that so she has been a very big inspiration for the last year because she's done exactly that and maybe having a similar situation to me."
Dokic said it was a long time since she had spoken to her father and she was unconcerned by his contention that her career was over.
"We have very different views on pretty much everything in life and that includes tennis and this decision to come back which he made to leave," she said.
"He's my father, he's family, but we don't agree on those things . . . so when it's that way you can't work with that kind of person."
Now based in Monte Carlo, she still keeps in contact with her mother and younger brother Savo, although they don't discuss her career.
Dokic stressed several times today that it was Damir who made the decision for the family to return to Serbia in 2001.
"I did want to come back two years ago but I was a little bit afraid of the reaction of the people and the players," she said.
"But so far everyone I have had to deal with and speak to has been very supportive.
"I am expecting (there to be) people who will not agree with me and understand my situation but that is OK.
"I am here to earn respect again from the players tennis-wise and from the people as well."
"What happened before, looking back now I don't agree with that and I would really like to make up for that," she added.
"I want to look forward, play for Australia, be Australian and get my career back on track."
Although Dokic is free to once again represent Australia in tournaments, she will have to serve a two-year eligibility period for the Fed Cup, as she played under the flag of Serbia and Montenegro last year.
Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee - who admitted he had all but given up hope of Dokic ever returning to Australia after her last-minute about-face two years ago - cautioned against expecting too much too soon.
"It's a long way back from that ranking so I think in terms of the tennis it's a pretty long haul," he said.
"She seems to have the fire in her belly and the eye of the tiger though, which is a good sign.
"We're certainly giving her a chance and we hope other people do too."
Dokic will make her competitive comeback in tournaments in Auckland and Canberra in early January.