Lucic returns to winning ways
Croatia's Mirjana Lucic has set her sights on a productive return to the game after off-court issues forced her on to the sidelines for four years.
Lucic - who fled to the United States after being abused by her father - wrestled with financial problems before ending her long layoff at the Memphis Open last month.
"I've been at home, missing tennis a lot and spending time with my family," Lucic said after beating American Lindsey Nelson 6-4 7-6 in the Pacific Life Open first round.
"My family is everything to me. I have cried more days than you can imagine and got amazing help from my family. They tried to keep me busy through the French Open and Wimbledon and so on.
"This is no experiment," the 24-year-old added with fire in her eyes.
"In my head, I really never left. I'm absolutely back in the game after an incredibly difficult time. God willing, I will be better than ever."
Germany-born Lucic - who stunned the tennis world by reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1999 before losing to her idol Steffi Graf - did not want to discuss her financial concerns.
"Not right now," she said.
"Until everything is solved, I want to focus on the game.
"I have no relationship with my father now. I got a new coach two and a half months ago and I've been training with my brothers."
Asked whether she had sufficient financial backing to compete regularly on the 2007 WTA Tour, she replied: "I'm not at that point yet but I feel very positive about it."
A gifted player as a teenager who won the 1996 junior US Open singles and the 1997 junior Australian Open singles and doubles titles, Lucic is delighted to be back at Indian Wells.
"It's four years, I believe, since I've been here and this is one of my favourite events," said the Croatian, who at 16 became the youngest player to complete a successful defence of a WTA Tour title at the 1998 Bol.
"I'm really, really excited. It feels like my soul is here. I'm completely at peace and at ease here. I just love this place."
Lucic accepts she will have to rely on several wildcard entries into WTA tournaments this season.
"For this year, my goal is to play from tournament to tournament," she said.
"Never before have I had a full year of, say, 20 tournaments. I want to play as many matches as I can for the next seven years."
Lucic faces eighth seed Anna Chakvetadze of Russia in the second round.