Dokic still in a spin figuring out her father

Inevitable questions about jailed parent add to anguish of defeat for former world No 4
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The Independent Online

Perhaps it was the sight of Centre Court towering behind her that brought on the dizziness that did for Jelena Dokic out on Court Seven here yesterday. It was almost exactly 10 years ago, as a 16-year-old bursting with the confidence of youth, that Dokic created one of the greatest shocks in Wimbledon history with her 6-2, 6-0 victory over Martina Hingis, the world No 1 and top seed.

It might equally have been the thought of the questions that would inevitably follow her first-round match against Germany's Tatjana Malek, Dokic's first in the main draw here for five years. The Australian lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 after an uncharacteristically limp display during which she called for the trainer and doctor after feeling light-headed.

Dokic has spent most of her professional lifetime dealing with media inquiries about her controversial father, Damir, and they are not going to stop even though he is currently in a Serbian prison, having been sentenced to 15 months in jail for his latest outrage, when he made death threats against the Australian ambassador in Belgrade. He was arrested last month after local media reports quoted him as saying he would "attack the ambassador and her husband with a Stinger missile".

Ever since Jelena walked out on her father in 2002, a year after the family had returned from Australia to their native Serbia, there have been occasional rumours of a reconciliation. The latest surfaced only last week as she practised in Eastbourne.

"I've said it a million times," Dokic sighed yesterday when the subject of her father was raised. "I have absolutely nothing at all to do with him, so I don't see why people would think that I would reunite with my dad when every single question I answer is about me not doing that.

"I don't understand where all these articles come from, but it's OK. Now and for ever, there is no way that I would ever reunite with him or ever have a relationship with him."

Dokic looked as if she had the world on her shoulders, a far cry from that June day 10 years ago when she beat Hingis here, having had to fight her way through qualifying even to make the main draw. She reached the quarter-finals that year, went one better 12 months later before losing to Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals and climbed to No 4 in the world rankings.

Damir accompanied his daughter to tournaments early in her career, but his behaviour became increasingly bizarre and confrontational towards officials. The family had moved to Australia from Serbia when she was a child but returned after Damir fell out with the Australian authorities in 2001, after which she briefly pledged her future allegiance to Serbia-Montenegro.

Jelena walked out on her family the following year. Her results started to tail off in 2003 and for more than three years she hardly played on the main circuit. She later revealed that she had suffered severe depression and problems with her weight.

"I was at a point where I don't know if I could have got any lower," she said yesterday. "When you're battling depression, when you're overweight and haven't touched a racket for six months or a year, you really don't care any more.

"Then I was actually thinking about what I might do with my life, because I made a decision at the time not to play, and then, out of nowhere, six months later, I thought I'd just try to pick up a racket and play for fun for myself. It turned into something different. I got that desire back. I thought I might give this another try."

Having started a comeback last year, Dokic beat two top 20 players at this year's Australian Open en route to the quarter-finals, where she lost in three sets to Dinara Safina, the eventual runner-up.

At the recent French Open she was a set and a break up against Elena Dementieva, the Olympic champion and world No 4, before suffering a back injury that forced her retirement. "I think that maybe actually took more out of me mentally, and I wasn't able to recover," Dokic said. "I haven't played any grass-court matches coming into Wimbledon."

During the Australian Open Damir talked of flying to Melbourne to see his daughter, but Jelena insisted she never wanted to see him again. His latest misdemeanours were outrageous even by his standards. Following his death threats to the Australian ambassador, police raided Damir's house and found two hand grenades and 20 bullets for which he had no permit, in addition to seven hunting rifles and a handgun which he owned legally.

Jelena was asked yesterday when she last attended a press conference at which she was asked only about tennis. "Never, unfortunately," she said, a look of resignation spreading across her face.

Tour terror: Trouble with Damir

Edgbaston 1999 Ejected from the tournament after drunkenly accusing officials of being Nazis who supported the bombing of Yugoslavia. Then laid down in front of the traffic.

Wimbledon 2000 Thrown out for causing disturbance and stamping on a journalist's telephone.

US Open 2000 Went into a rage over the price of a piece of salmon and was escorted off premises. Accused a senior official of being "a Communist" and was suspended from the tour for six months.

Australian Open 2006 Reported to have threatened revenge for Jelena's decision to return to Australia by dropping a nuclear bomb on Sydney and kidnapping her.

Serbia 2009 Reacted angrily to interview in which Jelena accused him of beating her. "There is no child that was not beaten by parents," he said. Jailed for 15 months for making death threats to the Australian ambassador.