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Dokic Downsizes In U.S. Open Victory


Photo By Fred Mullane By Richard Pagliaro
08/26/2003

The U.S. Open strives to super size Grand Slam tennis. It pays more prize money, attracts more fans, produces more noise and creates more traffic than any other major. In an environment where players can feel compelled to live large on the court, Jelena Dokic is determined to downsize.


In the aftermath of her 6-4, 6-2 victory over Emmanuelle Gagliardi in today’s opening-round U.S. Open match, the 22nd-seeded Dokic spoke like a woman striving to salvage her season by simplifying her life and focusing on her game to regain the form she showed in rising to a career-high rank of No. 4 a year ago.

"I think my mind is more on the court, I think I feel better physically," Dokic said. "I’ve worked a lot on my fitness. My movement us much better and that helps with hitting. I just feel much more comfortable now than I did a few months ago. I’ve worked very hard. It’s coming back a little bit."

It helped that Dokic was facing an opponent who had managed to win only one set from her in five previous matches. Looking fit and playing fast, Dokic dictated play from the baseline with flat shots that left little reaction time to the Swiss baseliner. Though Gagliardi countered effectively through the early stages of the first set and hit several running shots that left the former Wimbledon semifinalist flat-footed, Dokic distanced herself by winning the final two games to take the first set, 6-4.

Her serve has deserted Dokic in the past as her low line delivery frequently found its flight blocked by the net. Today, she connected on 73 percent of her first serves and saved five of the seven break points she faced. Backing up a consistent serve with bold blasts from the baseline, Dokic delivered 33 winners compared to 13 for Gagliardi.

"It was a little bit difficult at the beginning, but she played well," Dokic said. "I think she seemed to be hitting everything and she really went for everything. Made it a little bit difficult. But I played well. I did well to pull out the first set. I was happy with my game."

The game hasn’t always been the primary focus for the 20-year-old blonde who attracted a fair share of male teenage fans to today’s match. Dokic has carried a lot of baggage and has been branded with many labels since she burst to global prominence by scoring the biggest upset in the Open Era, shocking top-seeded Martina Hingis in the opening round of the 1999 Wimbledon. She’s lived in three different countries in recent years, endured an uncomfortable stretch in the spotlight due to the abrasive antics of her father and former coach, the controversial Damir Dokic, served a self-imposed ban from playing in her adopted Australia and has attracted a steady stream of fans and photographers drawn to her good looks that land her image on web sites around the world.

Acknowledging sex appeal sells tennis to both fans and media, Dokic said she’d prefer her appeal to be based on her game rather than glamour.

"I think people should stop looking for a babe," Dokic said. "I think they should be looking at tennis players first. I know all the media people here want someone to write about. There are plenty of other good-looking girls other than Anna (Kournikova) out there. Sure, you can write about her, that’s no problem. But I think you can write about both. I think we’re both here for tennis. If we do get a good-looking girl, sure you can write about that. It’s no problem. I think we should stick to tennis here."

Tennis has taken Dokic everywhere. Born in Belgrade, Dokic and her family emigrated from Serbia to Sydney, Australia when she was 11 years old. 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 accused officials of "rigging" the Australian Open draw against his daughter. As a result of his one-man feud with Tennis Australia an embittered Damir Dokic left Australia and moved his family to Serbia in 2001. Jelena has not returned to Australia since and said today she has not decided whether she will return Down Under in January to play the Australian Open for the first time since 2001 when she fell to Lindsay Davenport in the opening round.

"I haven’t decided. I’m thinking about it for sure," Dokic said. "I’m thinking about it for sure. I will make a decision in the next weeks (on) what I will do. Right now, I’m both ways, but I will see how I feel. It’s unfortunate to miss a Grand Slam, for sure. I don’t think it just depends on whether I want to go back or not. I think the schedule is really full and it’s a little bit heavy to come back after a month and go back and play straight away to Australia. I will take all that into consideration and I will see."

As she continues her quest to regain her past form, Dokic can look forward to a second-round match with former Australian Open and Roland Garros champion Mary Pierce, a 6-3, 6-2 victor over Stephanie Gehrlein.

"I want to do well here," Dokic said. "I don’t have any goals particularly with results. I just want to start playing better, get my form back to where I was when I was No. 4 in the world. I would like to play like I did."
 

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I watched her interview, and Jelena really sounds mature and appears to be positive about her game, and based on her talks of already thinking of her schedule for next year...apears to be motivated for a new and improved season in 2004.

This is great news, and hopefully Jele can finish off the remainder of the year on a good note.

Go Jele :D :D
 

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It was a good match from Jelena, however I felt Manu just did not have the belief to win, even when she was a break up, or at 4-4.
 
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