In what may be a move to assert authority over her own career and diminish the influence of domineering dad Damir Dokic, 10th-ranked Jelena Dokic has hired Heinz Gunthardt as her new coach.
Gunthardt, who won five ATP Tour titles and holds the Swiss Davis Cup records for most years played (15) and most ties played (30), may be best known for his work as Steffi Graf's former coach. In his eight years working with Graf, Gunthardt helped coach her to 12 Grand Slam titles.
The 19-year-old Dokic, whose father has been listed as her official coach since she turned pro in 1998, asked Gunthardt to take over as her coach in a meeting in Monaco in December. Gunthardt told writer Richard Yallop of The Australian that he imposed no restrictions on Damir Dokic's influence in accepting the position.
"I've never met the father, or talked to him," Gunthardt said. "But it's obvious Jelena is maturing."
According to Gunthardt, his contract calls him to work for Dokic for 25 weeks this season. The pair will assess their relationship after the initial 25-week period.
In their first tournament together, Dokic reached the Open Gaz de France quarterfinals in Paris last week where she was crushed by Eleni Daniilidou, 6-1, 6-3.
Today, the sixth-seeded Dokic suffered a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 setback to Ai Sugiyama at the Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp.
While Dokic, has been ranked as high as No. 4, she has shown little variety in playing a predictable game based on her fast, flat strokes and sporadic serve that can often crash into the net. The 2000 Wimbledon semifinalist has shown the ability to volley and her hiring of Gunthardt may be an indication she's intent on developing her game.
"l don't yet know her well enough to be able to judge her potential," Gunthardt said. "It will take me at least three to four months until I have a vague idea of what she is capable of."
Though Damir Dokic has been his daughter's primary coach throughout her professional career, Jelena has worked briefly with other coaches. After emigrating to Australia from Serbia in 1994, Dokic worked with former Australian Davis Cup coach Tony Roche. She also played on Tennis Australia junior teams for a time and made an appearance on the Australian Fed Cup team, which was coached by Lesley Bowrey.
Widely regarded as one of the top teenage prospects in the world after moving to Australia, Dokic soon found herself receiving as much media attention for her father's antics off the court than for her play on the court.
The demonstrative Damir Dokic was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct after being ejected from a grass-court tournament in Birmingham, England three years ago and protesting his ejection by lying down in a busy street in front of the tournament.
An allegedly drunken Damir Dokic was kicked out of Wimbledon in 2000 after a nonsensical tirade in which he allegedly made disparaging remarks about the royal family and made a lewd gesture at a female observing his outburst before grabbing a journalist's cell phone and smashing it to the ground. Despite her father's volatile outbursts, Jelena Dokic reached the Wimbledon semifinals before falling to Lindsay Davenport.
Two months after his Wimbledon outburst, the former boxer battled security at the U.S. Open. Upset at what he perceived as the high cost of a $10 piece of salmon (despite the fact that he used free food vouchers to pay for his meal at no cost), Damir Dokic berated a server in the player's restaurant, argued loudly with U.S. Open security staff and was finally escorted off the grounds at Flushing Meadows and banned from the Open for the duration of the tournament.
At a press conference outside his hotel the next day, Damir Dokic blasted then-WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire, calling him a "communist." The WTA subsequently suspended Mr. Dokic from the Tour for six months.
Shortly before the 2001 Australian Open, Jelena Dokic renounced her Australian citizenship and has represented Yugoslavia ever since. Last month, Damir Dokic said he was considering seeking asylum for his family in Great Britain.
Hopefully, we'll start seeing results soon
Good move for Jelena