Tennis: Wimbledon '99 - Now I know I can beat the best : A PLAYER'S DIARY JELENA DOKIC

The 16-year-old qualifier who took Wimbledon by storm gives a personal perspective
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The Independent Online
JELENA DOKIC is the 16-year-old Australian sensation who this year reached the quarter-finals of the singles and the third round of the doubles at Wimbledon. She and her close-knit family - father Damir, mother Liliana and brother Savo - emigrated down under in 1994 from Serbia. In January this year, she led Australia to their first Hopman Cup and then came to further prominence when her father was thrown out of the DFS Classic at Edgbaston last month. The controversy may have undermined the progress of other players, but for Dokic this proved a turning point... for the better.

Wednesday 9 June: Dad is evicted from the DFS Classic. I didn't think he had done anything wrong, just shouting a few "Come-ons". I lose my match against Rita Grande, 6-2 3-6 7-9.

Tuesday 15 June: I win my first-round Wimbledon singles qualifying match at Roehampton against Petty Van Acker 6-4 6-4. I am not nervous at all during the tie. I don't feel there is any pressure on me and I am confident I can do well. I decide it would be a good idea to enter the Wimbledon doubles qualifying tournament at Roehampton as well. I don't have a regular partner, so I team up with Tina Pisnik [of Slovakia]. She is a good player and a friend off the court. We beat Nora Koves and Nirupama Vaidyanathan in our first-round tie. I'm very pleased to be in London and looking forward to maybe doing some shopping, though if I continue to play well I might not get the chance.

Wednesday 16 June: I beat Evelyn Fauth 6-0 6-1 in the singles second- round qualifier. I play really well. I am starting to get my rhythm now, and every aspect of my game is improving. Losing only one game in any match, against any opponent, is impressive.

Thursday 17 June: Thanks to my 6-2 7-6 defeat of Rennae Stubbs, a fellow Australian, I have reached the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time. I am very happy with my achievement, but not yet satisfied. I am not content just to make it there; my final goal is to make good progress in the tournament. I wonder who I'll now face in the first round? It's Martina Hingis! Having to play the top seed in the first round of a Grand Slam event is obviously not ideal, but I take the draw positively. I look at this as an opportunity to do well in a big event against the No 1 ranked player in the world. By the end of the day, I'm actually relishing the challenge. Any homework I had is definitely put on hold now.

Friday 18 June: And now I'm in the main draw for the doubles too. Tina and I beat Mashona Washington and Samantha Reeves 6-1 7-5 to earn our place in the event. Our partnership is really blossoming. We are communicating a lot on court and getting to know each other's game more. I think the fact that we are friends on the junior tour and socialise quite a bit has helped our partnership develop quickly. It's a really hot day and in some ways I wish I could be back in Sydney, swimming in the sea. But I have more important things to worry about now.

Saturday 19 June: I get some valuable practice at Wimbledon with the British player Andrew Richardson. I am just getting a feel for the grass of SW19 and preparing myself mentally for the tournament.

Monday 21 June: The day before my first-round match with Martina. I am not nervous because I am confident in my own ability. But I am naturally keen to get on court as soon as possible. My game plan is simple: hit winners, no errors. I don't want to do anything else with my time in case it breaks my momentum.

Tuesday 22 June: I have beaten Martina in the first round of the singles. It's obviously the best result of my career so far and I'm delighted. It's funny, though, but I was never nervous during the match. I think I knew she had the pressure on her and that I could go out there and play. But to win 6-2 6-0 is not bad really. It may seem odd, but there is no one moment that really sticks out from the match. All I remember is that it was a solid performance and that I had no lapses of concentration.

Wednesday 23 June: Tina and I beat Eva Melicharova and Helena Vildova 7-5 6-2 in the first-round of the doubles. It feels good to get through the first round. I think it is never a bad idea to play in the doubles. Some say it is too much to take on and can be tiring, but I see it as an opportunity to get more practice on grass and work on certain aspects of my singles game. After my win in the singles, there is a lot more media attention on me as well as fans watching the match. That night I just go home and relax, listening to some music.

Thursday 24 June: Because of that result, a lot more is expected of me, but I still don't feel too much pressure. It doesn't worry me. I start really brightly against Katarina Studenikova, continuing where I left off against Martina in the previous round. I take the first set 6-0. Then I lose my concentration a bit and lose the second 6-4. In the final set, I am made to work hard for my eventual 8-6 win. I don't feel I played very well, but I'm just glad to be through. Sometimes, you have to win ugly.

Saturday 26 June: My first time on Centre Court. It is a much bigger stage with a much wider audience, which is nice. It makes you feel more important. Like any player, competing there is a dream come true, but I am not overwhelmed all the same. Anne Kremer proves herself to be a tough opponent. I have to come back from a set down to win in another tight three-set match, 6-7 6-3 6-4. I am in the fourth round; the first Australian woman to get there since Diane Balestrat in 1987. Still haven't had time for shopping.

Monday 28 June: Beating Mary Pierce is a really important result for me. It is confirmation that my win over Martina was no fluke and that I can beat the best players in the world. After going 4-1 down early in the first set, I then get my rhythm and start playing better tennis. I end up winning in straight sets, 6-4 6-3. Thinking about winning the tournament is going a bit far, but from now on it's anyone's.

Wednesday 30 June: My progress continues on two fronts as Tina and I win our second-round doubles match against the experienced fifth seeds, Elena Likhovtseva and Ai Sugiyama. It is a tough match, not to mention a long one, as the 3-6 6-2 12-10 score suggests. We're just pleased to be through.

Thursday 1 July: I make a shaky start in my match with Alexandra Stevenson. We both know that whoever wins will be the first qualifier to make it to the semi-finals. I lose the first set 6-3, but then regain my composure and take control of the second set. Bad weather stops play when I'm leading 5-1 and even though they try to put us on at 8pm to finish, we are eventually told we will resume tomorrow. Mentally, I would have preferred to finish today, but I can't even see the ball during the warm-up, so it would be pointless.

Friday 2 July: I win the second set 6-1 against Alexandra but lose the decider 6-3. My serve lets me down badly. Miserable day completed when we lose to Monica Seles and Mary Joe Fernandez in the doubles 6-2 6-2. I can't say I had a bad tournament. Qualified to go to the quarters and had some good wins. It was good for me, and I'm now looking forward to the US Open after some well-earned rest. I've got to catch up on some schoolwork but at least now there'll be time for some shopping.

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