Jelena thrives in love match
JELENA Dokic is in love and her game is glowing.
One of America's most respected coaches believes a contented Dokic can be the world No. 1.
And he predicts Dokic will soar to the top representing Australia.
Kevin O'Connor, head of tennis at Florida's famed Saddlebrook Resort, who coached Dokic in 1999-2001, said: "She's in love, she feels good about herself off the court and, I think, that basically will end up helping her long-term on the court.
"If she's happy off the court and she continues to feel good about her fitness, I think she can be a top player.
"She could be a contender to win a grand slam and be at the top of the rankings. It's certainly possible."
The unpredictable 20-year-old now plays under the Serbia and Montenegro flag, but has broken free from her erratic coach-father Damir and been linked to a possible return to Australian colours for next year's Athens Olympics.
Contrary to Damir's belief that his daughter's live-in boyfriend Enrique Bernoldi was a bad influence on her, O'Connor said the Brazilian Formula One driver may prove a godsend to the world No. 11.
"I spent quite a bit of time with her (at the Nasdaq-100 tournament in Florida) and that's where I could sense the inner confidence. She was calm, she was confident, I could just sense she was in a good place personally," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said Dokic, still an Australian citizen, was in the best physical shape of her career -- even fitter than when she reached world No. 4 in August -- and at last showing the maturity needed to reach the summit.
"I had a good chat with her and a good chance to watch her practise and play," O'Connor said. "She's got a great positive outlook on what she's doing right now and she's sort of coming into her own existence."
O'Connor said throughout his four-year association with the former world No. 1 junior, she had "never spoken negatively about her Australian experience at all".
He expected Dokic to compete in Australia at some point, and hopefully for Australia.
"And any country that has a great event like the Australian Open is longing to get a player they're affiliated with in the finals, and I just think that, at some point, it would be awesome if it was Jelena," he said.
"Everyone loves a comeback and everyone loves a situation that has a fairytale ending, and I can't tell you when and where it's going to be, but it would be a great situation for Australia and for Jelena both if that was on the cards."
O'Connor acknowledged Dokic's well-documented off-court dramas as "her biggest weaknesses".
"But she's been sorting out the ownership of her game, who she is and what she is," he said. "For anybody going out there to live on their own in the real world, that's a learning curve and that's going to take time. If it's affected her a little bit off-court, that's not a big deal because in the long run she'll adapt."
Dokic last week admitted she was struggling with some aspects of her play under new coach Heinz Gunthardt, but O'Connor believed her slide down the rankings to outside the top 10 was not a concern.
"It's taken the last year for her to sort of take ownership and to step up and say, 'OK, I am Jelena, and these are the things I stand for and these are the things I need to be responsible for'," he said.