I WAS TORTURED T
Jelena Dokic is one of the brightest tennis stars Australia has ever produced, but her fans always knew there was something dark about the relationship between her and her powerful, overbearing father Damir Dokic. Now, in an upcoming autobiography written
I don’t know where my dad is. I’m standing in the plush Wimbledon p players’ lounge waiting, looking around for him: we’re due to go out for a nice dinner with my managers, Ivan and John.
I am 17 years old and I have j just played in the semi-finals. Of Wimbledon. Surely, you’d think, he would be OK that I got this far at the All England Club. You would think.
At the end of the match, as I shook Lindsay’s hand, I looked up to the stands and saw my father bolt out of his green seat, nothing but the back of his burly frame rushing from Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
Usually after my matches, he stands around somewhere near the players’ lounge and I have to find him. But today there’s neither sight nor sound of him.
I called his mobile after I finished my press duties and he didn’t pick up.
This has been my greatest run ever in a grand slam and I want to know what he’ll say, and to organise how we will get to dinner with Ivan and John. So I call him again, and this time, finally, he picks up.
The dull slur in his slow, loud voice tells me he is drunk. I know this tone; it’s the tone of white wine and probably a few glasses of whisky.
He is angry. Furious that I lost. His voice booms down the phone. ‘You are pathetic, you are a hopeless cow, you are not to come home.
‘You are an embarrassment. You can’t stay at our hotel.’
‘But, Dad …’ I say quietly, trying to plead 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 explain 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 back- ground. Apparently Savo said simply ‘My dad isn’t here’.
I am both heartbroken by my father’s rejection and embarrassed by it. I’m shown to the spare room.
At least I didn’t get a beating from him. As I wait for sleep, through the shock and hurt I start to realise that i might never make my father happy. That I might never be good enough in his eyes.
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 eight dollars, 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 hec--
Damir Dokic and Jelena Dokic at the US Open in September 2000. Right: Jelena this year.