Welcome back Jelena: junior rival
December 16, 2005
THE last time they met, Beti Sekulovski and Jelena Dokic were two emerging teenage talents in Australia playing a low-key tournament in Mount Gambier, South Australia.
"She beat me 6-4 6-4," said Sekulovski, who was "14 or 15" at the time.
Now 22, a month younger than Dokic, Sekulovski will meet her again in the first round of the Australian Open wild-card play-offs at Melbourne Park today.
Having shadowed Dokic through junior and challenger events, Sekulovski will not be overwhelmed by the occasion.
"Obviously she's done a lot more in tennis than me but I'm actually quite excited to play her again," Sekulovski said. "I've played on the Australian circuit a lot and you see the same girls and now there's a fresh new face."
The pair have not had much time to catch up since Dokic's return to Australia two weeks ago after a four-year absence stemming from her father's insistence that the family return to Serbia and Montenegro.
Dokic always retained her Australian passport.
"I've only seen her long enough to say 'hello' or 'goodbye' but I'd love a longer chat and catch-up with her," Sekulovski said.
Sekulovski echoed many in the tennis community who are glad to see Dokic back.
"I think it's fantastic and Australia needs players like her in the tennis industry here to hopefully inspire us to get up and try to do what she has done," Sekulovski said.
"I think she's one tough cookie.
"I obviously don't know the precise details of all she's been through personally, only what I've seen and read, but all credit to her.
"She's a very experienced player and I for one want to learn from that."
Sekulovski nearly gave the game away last year after a number of surgeries, including a second operation on her left knee.
But she teamed with fellow Victorian Cindy Watson last January to make the doubles quarter-finals at the Sydney International and followed up by reaching the second round of the Australian Open.
They won an ITF challenger doubles final in Louisiana in May before returning to singles and reaching the final of two local ITF tournaments in Rockhampton and Canberra.
That raised her singles ranking from 830 to 344 by mid-September and has given her confidence and enthusiasm for the game again.
"I'm enjoying my tennis so much more and I think those surgeries, while I thought they would be the end of me, actually saved me physically as I had to rest and recuperate and get strong again," Sekulovski said. The winner of the women's and men's play-offs will be awarded a wild-card for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year starting on January 16.