Tennis: Wimbledon 99 - Dokic ducks past Pierce's cannon fire

Wimbledon 99: Australian teenager dispatches No 9 seed as she joins Davenport in the last eight
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The Independent Online
JELENA DOKIC'S efforts to ensure that her father has no further reason to lose his temper took her into the women's quarter-finals yesterday.

Dokic, the first-round conqueror of Martina Hingis, feasted on her second seed of the week, disposing of Mary Pierce, 6-4, 6-3. The 16-year-old's papa, Damir, who was arrested for unruly behaviour after being ejected from the DFS Classic at Edgbaston recently, was a model of decorum. He was not unruly. In fact, he was statuesque, a gargoyle perched on the far end of the stand behind play on Court Two. This distinguishable bearded figure sat proud. He must have felt it as well.

Court Two has the reputation as the graveyard of the seeds, but these past eight days it has been a pleasant pasture for most of the higher- ranked players. Yesterday it bit back.

"It's all a bit hard to believe after coming from the qualifying," Dokic said. "It was probably not as good as I played against Hingis but definitely much better than in the last two matches. Beating Mary in two sets, you would have to think that my level was pretty high.

"After beating Hingis in the first round there was pressure to win a few more. I was thinking: `Am I really able to beat top players?'. Beating Mary today sort of proved it for me."

The combatants arrived to gusty conditions which encouraged the attendance of many mischievous cameramen. From the knock-up it seemed that Dokic had spent too much time in such weather with wet hair. The Belgrade-born Australian sneezed with the effort of each shot and may have caught Jim Courier's cold.

Dokic had arrived so fresh of face that it was a surprise to see her hitting balls over the net rather than rolling them to a confrere at the back of the court. Soon, however, she was to look much less sprightly.

Dokic's roots in this competition go back further than most, as she fought through the qualifying stages at Roehampton. In the aftermath of her third- round victory over Anne Kremer, Dokic seemed wearied by both the physical requirements of her passage and the needs of an increasingly interested media.

Both players yesterday had fair hair teased into ponytails and double- handed backhands. It was like big sister against her emerging sibling. And, from the outset, big looked best. Mary Pierce has, for some time, been one of the heaviest hitters on the women's circuit but it seems that was not enough. Her body is now even further pumped up with the help of the natural vitamin supplement, creatine. She started as if nitroglycerine was also part of her diet.

The first three games disappeared in the puffs of smoke that Pierce's ground shots appeared to be making on the turf. GI Mary was hitting both heavily and with direction.

The No 9 seed was also giving a masterclass in the art of the drop-shot and it was her great misfortune that Dokic proved such an attentive pupil. From 4-1 the locomotive force of the Frenchwoman was derailed and Dokic won the next five games and the opening set.

This turnaround sent both on their way. Dokic to victory and Pierce into a puzzled trance. Pierce, not for the first time, sent us through her mannerisms of the asylum. There were the weird smiles to herself at inappropriate moments. There were the intimidating looks towards the arbiters. On one occasion Pierce stared out a linesman with her tongue lolling. To his great credit he resisted the temptation to bolt for the exit.

The match was slipping and so was Mary's attention. On these occasions her mind seems to be elsewhere, presumably floating in a pickling jar on a laboratory shelf.

Dokic will now play a fellow non-seed for a place in the semi-finals and the lights of a place on the Centre Court on Saturday twinkle ever brighter. The teenager said before the Pierce encounter that she could see a path to the final if she got over that hurdle. Yesterday, in victory, she was a little more circumspect. "Thinking about winning the tournament is going a bit far," she said, "but in the fourth round it's anyone's tournament. It's going to be tough but beating Martina and Mary has given me great confidence."

Dokic will not be tempted to take the Pierce route and beef up her physique with the use of creatine. "Definitely not," she said. "That's not me.

"Mary is a big hitter, and so are Davenport and Venus, but if you look at Hingis she has been beating them. You can play your game and try to outsmart and outplay people. You try not to look at how big the opponent is at the other end."

Dokic, then, will just say no. She probably does not need anything more than the adrenaline which has taken her from nobody to celebrity during these past eight days in SW19.

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