No mat­ter how well she played or how many vic­to­ries she notched up Je­lena Do­kic lived in con­stant fear of her fa­ther’s ex­plo­sive tem­per and sav­age beat­ings

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

Idon’t know where my dad is. I’m stan stand­ing in the plush Wim Wim­ble­don play­ers’ lounge wait­ing, look­ing around for him: we’re due to go out for a nice din­ner with my manag man­agers, Ivan and John. I am 17-ye 17-years-old and I have just played in the semi­fi­fi­fi­nals. fi­nals. Of Wimbl Wim­ble­don.

Surely, you you’d think, he would be ok okay that I got this far at th the All Eng­land Club. You would think. At the end of the match, as I shook Lindsay Lindsay’s hand, I looked up to the stands and saw m my fa­ther bolt out of his green seat, noth­ing bu but the back of his burly f frame rush­ing from Wimb Wim­ble­don’s Cen­tre Court. Usu­ally af­ter my matche matches, he stands around somew some­where near the play­ers’ lounge and a I have to fi­fi­fi­fifind find him. But tod to­day there’s nei­ther sight nor so sound of him. I called his mo mo­bile af­ter I fi­fi­fifin­ished fin­ished my press du­ties and he didn’t pick up.

This has been my great­est run ever in a grand gra slam and I want to know w what he’ll say, and to or­gan­ise h how we will get to din­ner with Ivan Iv and John. So I call him again, ag and this time, fi­nally, he p picks up.

The dull slur in his slow, loud voice tells m me he is drunk. I know this tone; it’s the tone of white wine and p prob­a­bly a few glasses of whisky whisky. He is an­gry. Fu­ri­ous that I lost. lo His voice booms down the phone. “You are pa­thetic, you are a hope­less cow, you are not n to come home. You are an a em­bar­rass­ment. You can’t stay at our ho­tel.”

“But, Dad …” I say qui­etly, try­ing to plead w with him.

“You need to go and find some­where else to sleep,” he yells at the top of his voice. “Stay at Wim­ble­don and sleep there some­where … Or wher­ever else. I don’t care.” He hangs up. I have just made the semi­fi­nals of Wim­ble­don. But in my fa­ther’s eyes I am not good enough to come home.

Play­ers around me are get­ting on with life, chat­ting, eat­ing din­ner, wind­ing down with their coaches. I am alone and shat­tered. I have no money – well, no ac­cess to it – no credit card. It is Dad who has all that. He con­trols ev­ery­thing in my life. Emo­tion starts to over­whelm me. Fail­ure – I’m a fail­ure. Min­utes tick by and then hours. I tuck my­self away on a small couch in the cor­ner of the play­ers’ lounge, hop­ing no one no­tices me, and even­tu­ally the place is empty.

At around 11pm the cleaner ar­rives. She sees me in the cor­ner and comes over. “You can’t stay here,” she says softly.

I make the con­fes­sion: “I have nowhere to sleep tonight.” As I say it, the re­al­ity hits me. The tears prick in the cor­ner of my eyes.

“I have to let the tour­na­ment au­thor­i­ties know,” she says.

Wim­ble­don’s referee, Alan Mills, ar­rives. “What hap­pened?” he asks gen­tly.

“I have nowhere to go,” I say. “I have nowhere to sleep.”

Hot tears are run­ning down my face, but I don’t let on that my own fa­ther has ban­ished me: as al­ways I must pro­tect him. Alan, how­ever, seems to know what’s go­ing on. My man­age­ment agency, Ad­van­tage, has rented a beau­ti­ful house in Wim­ble­don vil­lage; Alan calls my man­agers and they say they will take me in. He ar­ranges for a tour­na­ment car to take me to the house.

I ar­rive sob­bing and Ivan and John look con­cerned when they see me. They ex- plain they’d called my dad ear­lier in the evening try­ing to lo­cate us and my nine-year-old brother, Savo, an­swered. John says he could hear my fa­ther’s voice in the back­ground. Ap­par­ently Savo said sim­ply, “My dad isn’t here.”

I am both heart­bro­ken by my fa­ther’s re­jec­tion and em­bar­rassed by it.

Ev­ery morn­ing I wake at home and wor­ries as­sail my mind be­fore I have even lifted my head off the pil­low. How can I make sure he doesn’t hurt me to­day? How can I make sure he doesn’t ex­plode? These days that’s hard – he’s get­ting more ag­gres­sive.

It feels as though ever since we walked through the doors of Syd­ney Air­port he has been pan­icked, fear­ful and mis­er­able. His eyes are now never soft like they some­times were in Ser­bia; he is still griev­ing the death of his fa­ther. Nor have my par­ents been able to get jobs. Once more, at times our main meals are bread and mar­garine with salt. On the day be­fore we are due to re­ceive our fort­nightly gov­ern­ment ben­e­fit we are usu­ally down to our last $8, and six of those must be spent on train and bus fares for Dad and me to get to White City.

For­tu­nately my work is pay­ing off. At White City, on my hec­tic train­ing reg­i­men I am im­prov­ing at a rapid rate. I’ve made the kind of gains in my ten­nis over three months that most other chil­dren would man­age in three years. It’s not nor­mal, but it’s im­pos­si­ble not to im­prove like this when you’ve got some­one like my fa­ther be­hind you. There is no other op­tion but to suc­ceed.

He tells me I must suc­ceed as this is our only way out from this sit­u­a­tion here in Aus­tralia. He tells me this daily – in our Fair­field apart­ment, on the way to train­ing: “You are our way out.”

And I know that I am. Ab­so­lutely, I am our only chance of a bet­ter life in this new coun­try.

I be­gin to feel that the stakes are so high for my fam­ily around my suc­cess or fail­ure that ev­ery shot has to be per­fect. In­deed, Dad tells me he wants me to be per­fect on the ten­nis court. But even when I de­liver per­fec­tion he wants more. When I reach No. 1 in the un­der-14s, he de­mands I should be No. 1 in the un­der-16 age group. It doesn’t take much to set him off into a rage.

Things aren’t all bad for our fam­ily. There are some good times – a few hours when we have a happy

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