Personal reasons force Dokic to withdraw

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The Independent Online

Jelena Dokic has pulled out of next week's Auckland Classic citing personal reasons.

The Auckland tournament director, Richard Palmer, said: "I'm extremely disappointed at this decision, especially at such late notice. I sincerely hope Jelena can resolve the issues facing her and concentrate on her tennis. Her coach has stated that she would love to come to New Zealand again at some stage but now is not the right time."

Ranked fourth in the world in 2002, Dokic endured a wretched 2003 season and has slipped to 15th in the rankings.

Despite her withdrawal from the Auckland event, the 20-year-old is still expected to play at the Australian Open later this month for the first time in three years.

She had refused to play at the year's opening grand slam tournament since she was knocked out in the first round at Melbourne Park in 2001.

The Yugoslav is next entered to play at the Sydney International tournament from 11 to 17 January. The Australian Open starts on 19 January.

The Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, has statetd that the Lawn Tennis Association must do more to attract players from all sections of society or risk losing Government funding.

Tennis is receiving a £9.4m grant over three years following a promise made by the Government 18 months ago, but Caborn is unhappy at the sport's structure, claiming not enough effort is made to attract players from poorer areas or ethnic minorities.

Caborn said that Government attempts to ensure money was being well spent by sports had "exposed weaknesses in the club structure in many sports, particularly when it comes to people from the broadest social spectrum".

"There are youngsters with the talent out there but we do not have a system that will identify them and give them the opportunity to move into the professional game," he added. "That depends on a good club infrastructure."