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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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By Richard Pagliaro - Jelena Dokic began the year by renouncing her Australian citizenship and reverting back to her native Yugoslavian nationality. Today, the eighth-ranked Dokic announced she has stricken the Australian Open from her schedule in 2002. Dokic has declined to play the year's first Grand Slam in Melbourne because she claims it's "too far away."

"I will not go to Melbourne for the first Grand Slam tournament in 2002," said Dokic, who will instead train near her Belgrade home for the next two and a half months before rejoining the WTA Tour in Tokyo at the Pan Pacific Challenge in late January. "I want to rest well, recover and prepare for the season in which I will try to be even more successful."

In 1994, the Dokic family emigrated to Sydney, Australia from Belgrade. Dokic played for Australia in the Fed Cup and in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, but her relationship with Tennis Australia officials soured as her father — the controversial Damir Dokic— accused officials of "rigging" the Australian Open draw against his daughter. The unseeded Dokic drew defending champion Lindsay Davenport in the opening-round of the Australian Open in January. Her father was furious over the draws his daughter received in both 2000 and 2001 and charged the draw was "fixed."

"I think the draw is fixed just for her," Damir Dokic said at the time. "If it is not, the country should protect its own player. Jelena was crying for the first time ever last night. I have never seen her cry about tennis in her life and she was saying that she could not believe that she got that kind of draw in Australia. She feels betrayed. She feels that no one here likes her and when you feel like that it means you have no spaces here where you can just go."

Widely regarded as one of the top teenage prospects in the world after moving to Australia, Dokic soon found herself receiving as much media attention for her father's antics off the court than for her play on the court. The demonstrative Damir Dokic was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct after being ejected from a grass-court tournament in Birmingham, England two years ago and protesting his ejection by lying down in a busy street in front of the tournament. An allegedly drunken Damir Dokic was kicked out of Wimbledon in 2000 after a nonsensical tirade in which he allegedly made disparaging remarks about the royal family and made a lewd gesture at a female observing his outburst before grabbing a journalists cell phone and smashing it to the ground. Despite her father's volatile outbursts, Jelena Dokic reached the Wimbledon semifinals before falling to Lindsay Davenport.

Two months after his Wimbledon outburst, the former boxer battled security at the U.S. Open. Upset at what he perceived as the high cost of a $10 piece of salmon (despite the fact that he used free food vouchers to pay for his meal at no cost), Damir Dokic berated a server in the player's restaurant, argued loudly with U.S. Open security staff and was finally escorted off the grounds at Flushing Meadows and banned from the Open for the duration of the tournament. At a press conference outside his hotel the next day, Damir Dokic blasted WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire, calling him a "communist." The WTA subsequently suspended Mr. Dokic from the Tour for six months.

Shortly before the 2001 Australian Open, Jelena Dokic renounced her Australian citizenship and has represented Yugoslavia ever since.

"We were forced to do this and now she will always play for Yugoslavia," Damir Dokic said. "After this draw we don't have anything left here. We will move to Florida straightaway in one or two weeks. Now I must sell everything and leave this country. We are all very sad."

The Dokic family has split times in their homes in Belgrade and at the Saddlebrook Resort in Florida since leaving Sydney. Jelena Dokic has produced the best results of her career this season, capturing three tournament titles and reaching consecutive finals in Zurich and Linz last month before falling to top-seeded Lindsay Davenport in both matches. Davenport also defeated Dokic in the quarterfinals of the season-ending Sanex WTA Tour Championships to raise her record to 6-0 against Dokic.

"She is the most difficult opponent I've ever played against," Dokic said of Davenport. "Her physical power is hard to counter, but I think I will gain in both strength and maturity with time."I've learned a lot from the media in the last two or three years," she said this week."

The 18-year-old Dokic is eager to put the past — and Australia — behind her.

"I've been through a lot with the Australian media," Dokic said. "This year I had much more opportunities to learn. I don't think many things changed since I turned 18, but since I took a Yugoslav passport about a year ago, I started winning titles. I won all three tournaments as a Yugoslav citizen."
 
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