Article: Lucic rises from the ashes
From the Herald Tribune:
On Saturday, two days before the official start of the Sarasota Clay Court Classic, Jelena Dokic warmed up and chilled out while Mirjana Lucic sweated and strove to salvage her tennis career.
Dokic is the tournament's defending champion, No. 1 seed and a top-10 player.
Lucic is a "qualie." The Bradenton resident believes she can be more.
Qualifying is the tournament just to play in the tournament. Win and you're in, lose and you have to buy a ticket just like everyone else.
While the stars rest their pampered bodies and psyches, the "qualies" play in anonymity and try to shed it. They struggle to eke out a living on pro tennis' periphery, where the goal is to earn enough points to climb the player rankings, nab main draw invitations and paddle out of the qualifying pool.
Hope floats. Good thing, too, because Lucic's trying to resurrect a career that's dipped like a sunset.
She was barely 15 when she won her first WTA event. She was a 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist two years later, and seemed poised to become a tennis princess. Like Venus. Serena. Martina. Jelena.
But there were injuries to her left knee and right shoulder in 2000, then to her right wrist in 2001. After tearing the meniscus in her knee, she didn't grip a racket for eight months. Depressed, she gained so much weight she became a one-shot player. A long shot. A "qualie."
She was depressed because she ate, and ate because she was depressed. She felt the financial burden of supporting her mother, two sisters and two brothers. She earned only $41,004 in 2002, before travel expenses. She wrestled with the alleged pattern of emotional and physical abuse by her father, Marinko. He's been out of her life for five years, but a father's hard to forget.
"He can go to the other end of the earth, but it's there," she said. "There are memories and you have to figure out that it wasn't your fault."
She's hit bottom, but guess what?
"I have reached a good rock bottom," she said. "I got to see how it is at the other end. I've never had to play qualies. I've never had to play for things, ask for things. I was Mirjana Lucic, 'What do you want?' "
She's lost 40 pounds since she started training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton a year ago. She cut out sweets and stopped staying in bed until 1 p.m. Waking to play tennis is fun again.
Her best season-ending ranking the past three years is No. 191, in 2001. She'd lost four straight matches before beating No. 79 Marissa Irvin 6-0, 6-4 on Saturday.
Lucic covered the court like a blanket. She outmuscled and outhustled Irvin, whose unforced errors contributed, too.
"If she can break the barrier of mentally feeling she can do it, she can be a player again because she's only (21) years old," Bollettieri said. "That's not going to be easy."
Andre Agassi once rose from No. 141 on the Challenger circuit to No. 1 in the world. He toiled through the qualies, too.
"I felt like I just won Wimbledon," Lucic said after beating Irvin. "I think I finally found what the whole thing is about."
great article. She really looks great! I hope she goes far in this tournament!