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Dokic looks forward to Australian Open
10th January 2008, 16:24 WST
The worst years of her life are behind Jelena Dokic.
She only hopes the best years of her tennis career are not.
The 24-year-old Dokic made the first serious step toward a comeback to the top level of her game at Melbourne Park, scoring a straight sets victory in the first round of the Australian Open qualifying tournament.
Dokic beat New Zealand's Marina Erakovic 6-4 6-1 in a style that encouraged, more than thrilled, her.
For the former world No.4 who made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2000 and then suffered a decline brought on largely by her domineering and unstable father, Thursday's success was proof that all the pain and suffering might be worth it.
The least of Dokic's troubles was the extra weight she had piled on while "sorting out her life" for the past two years. She said she had lost 16kg since commencing training last October.
"I have, obviously, a couple more (kilos) to go," Dokic said.
"But I think I've done a good job."
Seemingly, she has done an even better job of getting herself emotionally fit.
During the upheaval that her father Damir orchestrated when his daughter should have been confirming herself as one of the world's best players, Dokic switched nationalities, endured serious humiliation and lost the will to play.
"I didn't think I'd ever play again," she said.
"I've been to hell and back.
"I had to sort through a lot of problems ... I had a lot of issues.
"They are private, people don't know about it."
The light was switched back on again about six months ago when Dokic was at home in Croatia. She hadn't picked up a racquet in a couple of years, hadn't trained in seven months and hadn't wanted to.
"It just happened overnight," she said.
"I just thought to myself 'I'll give it a shot again'"
Dokic said the realisation that tennis was the thing she loved most in the world lifted a burden from her and gave her life new purpose.
"I was pretty out of it, I didn't have the will to play.
"Then something clicked and I realised that I really missed it."
As well as providing her with the chance to make the draw of a grand slam tournament, Thursday's win provided a good test for a troublesome ankle which had caused some controversy for Dokic.
She had been confronted earlier this week with the problem of being in the field in a tournament in Hobart and being given a wildcard entry into the Australian Open qualifying tournament.
Under the rules, she couldn't pull out of one tournament in order to enter a another. Fortunately, the ankle injury bobbed up at just the right time and just the right level of seriousness to get her out of Hobart and into Melbourne.
Dokic took the precaution of taping it for Thursday's match and was pleased with the way it stood up.
"I'm still a bit cautious, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be," she said.
Apart from Dokic, every other Australian woman in the qualifying tournament became a first round casualty.
In the men's qualifier, the bid by Australia's Bernard Tomic to become the youngest entrant into the main draw of the Open came to a swift end.
Tomic, 15, went down in straight sets in the second round to the experienced US-based Indian Prakash Amritraj 6-3 6-2.
Thursday's defeat followed Tomic's stunning, opening round upset of Taiwan's Yeu-Tzuoo Wang.