Jelena Dokic: I now have a future
WORLD EXCLUSIVE by Bruce Wilson in Berlin
May 11, 2003
JELENA Dokic has declared it is all over between her and the inspiration, coach, mentor and now nemesis that is her father, Damir.
She had just played the latest in a series of pretty bad matches when she was confronted by news her father had denounced her.
As she walked from the court and out of the German Open, Jelena said: "I don't know and I don't want to know," in response to questions on her reaction to Damir's manic denouncement of the new man in her life. "What I have now is a future," she said.
Walking many steps behind her was the man in question – Jelena's lover, partner and housemate, Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi. He's a racing car driver by trade, but has not been on the track from some time.
That very morning Dokic's father, Damir, had branded the Brazilian an idiot and sponger.
Startled to be approached – he is rarely recognised – the handsome and elegant Brazilian said he would not stoop to the level of the father who claims he made Jelena what she is:
"To say? What to say about this. To put myself on this level. I would not go near his level."
Soon after, the pair left for Monte Carlo where they now live together in what friends describe as complete happiness.
That is the conundrum: Jelena's tennis has gone to shreds, but her life seems more fulfilled than it ever did when her father was the torment of tennis and she felt obliged to defend him.
On Friday, she was understandably gun shy about making any public comment. She believes she has had bad press in Australia. But she listened to questions about what her father had allegedly said. And her response: "I haven't read it. I don't want to read it. I don't want to know what it says. I don't want to think about what it says. Now I have a future. That is all."
There is a little fib in there. Through Women's Tennis Association officials I had sent a copy of her father's devastating attack on her, in which he said he had severed all ties with his daughter:"She read it. It hurt," said a WTA official.
Soon after, Jelena came out to play a doubles match with her Russian partner Nadia Petrova. Just how much she cared about it was clear: she played it wearing her tracksuit bottoms in the sultry warmth. They lost 4-6 5-7 to Liezel Huber and Magdalena Maleeva.
Sitting about two metres from her, Bernoldi called out with occasional messages of support.
It was clear, though, they were pleased to be leaving town after Jelena's defeat by a wild-card entrant in the singles.
She failed to win a point in the third set tie-break, an indication of where her tennis is.
The couple for some reason do not act as a couple. He walks metres behind her, as if she did not exist.
Or, perhaps, as if he did not. When I asked her if the future included a return to Australia, she looked at me for a moment with her baby-wide eyes, almost as if Australia, too, did not exist.
She said: "I have a future. My future." But locker-room friends said her tennis ambitions now included the Australian Open again. Asked if she thought she might be welcomed back, Jelena decided to ignore the question.
Jelena and Enrique have been staying in Berlin's Intercontinental Hotel, fittingly perhaps, in this era of gaping at tennis stars, alongside the city's famous zoo. They have kept to their suite much of the time.
The hotel is swarming with tennis people and tennis groupies, sad tanned people in anoraks.
The players include Leyton Hewitt and his entourage, in town to watch his partner Kim Clijsters return from some kind of emotional problem she had been suffering to advance towards the singles finals.
"Jelena is playing crap," one of the Hewitt camp said. "She's been told by [new coach] Heinz Gunthardt to rush it, get at the net, change her natural game. Not working, mate."
Gunthardt sat alongside Bernoldi during yesterday's doubles. He could not have been impressed by what he saw.
There were only a couple of hundred people courtside watching a match that wouldn't have drawn flies on a hot afternoon at your local tennis club.
The stats show that Dokic, for all her immense early promise, is not a natural-born killer, and that winning streaks are not her go. Losing streaks, though, are becoming her latest trademark.
She has a senior career win-loss of 190-101 compared with Clijster's 220-69.
At 20, she is no longer the slight girl with a mole who sensationally beat Martina Hingis at Wimbledon, but a shapely, tall young woman. He mole has gone, and so has the girl. Perhaps that is what her father so hates.
The question is, said WTA insiders, does Jelena really care right now? She has won almost $US3 million in prize money and maybe has doubled that in sponsorships.
"Damir saw to it that she never had a childhood or an adolescence. Now, maybe, she is going to have a womanhood," said a women's tour official.
She has slipped out of the top 10, but seems not to care. She is now on her fourth nationality, having been an old Yugoslav, an Australia, a new Yugoslav and now, officially, a Serbian and Montenegran.
"The Australian thing haunts her," said a close associate. "Sometimes she has been preoccupied with it, and now that her father has come out with this gibberish about wishing he had never left there ... well, God knows how she feels.
"Right now, she probably is against anything he says. The other thing is that she was a much better player when old mad Damir was pushing her around and terrorising the world," he said.
As Jelena walked off Court B, a loser, she passed a certain Martina Navratilova going in to play her doubles match, more than old enough to be Jelena's mother, if such a thing had ever crossed Martina's mind.
She looked happy, composed, chirpy. But she was not always like that.
Perhaps that was the lesson Jelena Dokic is learning, because this much is for sure: she may be playing ordinary tennis by the standards she was set by her mad old dad, but she is not the tormented girl she used to be.
The Sunday Telegraph