ITF WOMEN'S CIRCUIT
In the last few weeks, Jelena has pulled out of the following tournaments on the ITF Women's Circuit:
* ITF Pelham & ITF Putignano (week of 3rd April)
* ITF Dothan (week of 17th April) - withdrew 27th March
* ITF Bari (week of 17th April) - withdrew 12th April
We don't know the reason for these withdrawals. One rumour is that Jelena has been ill, another is that she has lost her motivation after her devastating first-round losses at Auckland and the Australian Open, where she capitulated in the third sets after squandering chances to win both matches in two sets.
ITF WOMEN'S CIRCUIT (Biarritz, France; clay; ITF $25k)
Qualifying: First round (Sunday 9th April)
- Jelena Dokic lt. Eleonora Punzo, 7-5 7-5
Punzo is a 20-year-old Italian girl ranked #678 in the world, while Jelena, who turned 23 on Wednesday, is ranked #446 this week.
Punzo had a 2-7 win/loss record for 2006 going into this tournament, with most of the losses coming against players ranked worse than #500, and Punzo winning five games or fewer. Punzo lost 6-0 6-0 no fewer than three times in 2005. After beating Jelena here, Punzo lost 6-4 6-1 to #701 Louise Doutrelant in the second qualifying-round.
In other words, Jelena lost to a player whom, under normal circumstances, she could have beaten with her legs tied together so that she had to hop around the court like a kangaroo - which is what she seems to be best at, after all!
It's increasingly difficult to know what's going on with Jelena these days, and she's all the more intriguing for her mystique.
Perhaps she has not fully recovered from her rumoured illness. Perhaps she's playing dole-misčre. Or perhaps the real Jelena has been kidnapped by her father, who sent Jelena's secret identical twin sister to play in her name.
It's Jelena's head that determines the outcome of her matches - often much more than the abilities of her opponent.
Is life just a tape, or is it actors miming?
It's entirely plausible to me that Jelena just treated this tournament as an experiment, to see where her game is at: that she rushed her way through the points, went for her shots without compromise, and was more concerned with her winner-to-unforced-error ratio than actually doing what was necessary to beat Eleonora Punzo.
And why shouldn't Jelena play like that until such time as her game returns? If she just kept the ball in play, she might beat the likes of Punzo on the ITF circuit, but that's not the sort of player she would want to be, or what she needs to do to succeed on the WTA Tour!
In the long term, getting her 'A' game back is more important than winning matches in the short term.
Pleasing her fans is the least of Jelena's worries right now. It's at times like these that I'm glad I'm a life-professed Jelena-fan.
We certainly have no right to judge Jelena harshly after everything she's been through - especially when we don't even know the full story.
Precious and fragile things need special handling.
Jelena is still committed to the following ITF tournaments:
* ITF Cagnes-sur-Mer (week of 24th April)
* ITF Catania (week of 1st May)
Tennis Australia have announced a play-off to determine which Australian woman gets a wild card into the French Open (the French and Australians have a reciprocal agreement for getting into each other's draws).
As I understand it, this wild-card play-off will be held a couple of days before the French Open qualifying (week of 22nd May). A chance for Jelena to win a wild card for the French Open, as she did in December for the Australian Open!
And Wimbledon would be mad not to give Jelena a wild card, given her record there - the amazing 6-2 6-0 victory over top seed Martina Hingis in 1999, and reaching the semi-finals in 2000 - not to mention her popularity. My dream is to see Jelena win Wimbledon as a wild card, like Goran Ivanisevic on the men's side in 2001.
Jelena has also been offered a place on the Australian Institute of Sport Squad.
The AIS Tennis program promotes excellence in tennis, and is designed to encourage players to work to their full potential, providing a supportive team of professionals and coaches who can help them with anything from psychological techniques to correct foot-placement.
For a period during the Australian winter, there is an extensive international competition schedule for all players.
This may make Jelena look like a remedial case, but it sounds like it could be beneficial.
Dr. Andrew Broad
http://geocities.com/andrewbroad/tennis/dokic/ (added 5 external links)