RISE OUT OF ABUSE

JELENA DOKIC HAS RE­VEALED THE VI­O­LENCE SHE SUF­FERED AT THE HANDS OF HER UN­STA­BLE FA­THER ON THE WOMEN’S TEN­NIS TOUR

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - WORDS: TERRY MALLINDER

Jelena Dokic feels lib­er­ated. While never fully heal­ing her wounds, the for­mer ten­nis star’s in­cred­i­ble tell-all book has al­lowed her to at least ex­or­cise some of her demons. The demons that came with be­ing raised by the ten­nis dad from hell. Un­til the re­lease of her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Un­break­able, this week, Dokic had never re­vealed the ex­tent of the shock­ing men­tal and phys­i­cal abuse she suf­fered at the hands of her in­fa­mous fa­ther. Damir Dokic wanted his daugh­ter to be the best ten­nis player in the world – at any cost. Most har­row­ing is the rev­e­la­tion of the beat­ings she suf­fered when fail­ing to per­form to the lev­els he de­manded. It would of­ten mean be­ing whipped by his belt – some­thing she has de­tailed in graphic fash­ion. “My los­ing par­tic­u­larly sends my fa­ther into a rage,” the one-time US Open ju­nior cham­pion writes. “I rarely lose but when I do the con­se­quence is bru­tal … now of­ten a belt-whip­ping. I can see he has de­cided slap­ping and hit­ting me are not enough of a pun­ish­ment. “It hurts a lot less when you have your shirt on and that’s why he makes me take it off. I stand in my bra, my back to him, and he or­ders me not to move as he hits me. Of­ten he al­most slices my skin with the belt.” Jelena was once beaten so badly af­ter a de­feat she lost con­scious­ness. “I’ve never re­ally told my side of the story, never re­ally spo­ken about any­thing in my life,” Jelena, now 34, tells Week­end. “But I al­ways knew I would. I knew I would go out there at some stage and tell my story. It was some­thing that was re­ally im­por­tant to me, some­thing that I wanted to do for a while. “It’s not that I was run­ning away from it. “It’s just that it’s such a com­plex story… there’s so many parts to my life and I think it needed to be said to­gether. “A book was the per­fect way.” Jelena was also twice a refugee, flee­ing war-torn Croa­tia with her fam­ily for her fa­ther’s home­land, Ser­bia, when she was seven, be­fore ul­ti­mately ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia. In the book, she re­calls the time she saw her first dead body. But de­spite such a con­fronting early child­hood grow­ing up in east­ern Europe, noth­ing would com­pare to the per­sonal hor­rors at home, par­tic­u­larly through her teenage years af­ter the fam­ily moved to Syd­ney in 1994. Damir’s ag­gres­sive na­ture was ap­par­ent to the wider ten­nis com­mu­nity not long af­ter Jelena burst on to the scene as a 16-year-old ris­ing star of the women’s game in 1999. He was ejected from Wim­ble­don in 2000 for smash­ing a jour­nal­ist’s mo­bile phone, kicked out of the US Open later that year for tak­ing ex­cep­tion to the price of fish in the play­ers’ lounge, and booted from the Aus­tralian Open in 2001 af­ter ac­cus­ing or­gan­is­ers of rig­ging the draw. He would ul­ti­mately be banned from the women’s tour for six months. Few were aware of the ex­tent of his wrath, how­ever, and the painful im­pact it had on his daugh­ter. “Peo­ple as­sume they know ev­ery­thing, know what’s go­ing on,” Jelena says. “You never re­ally know what’s go­ing on be­hind closed doors.” Be­ing be­hind those closed doors was a liv­ing night­mare for Jelena. She also claimed Damir would pull her hair or ears, hit her with shoes, spit in her face, and call her names like “whore’’. Jelena writes, “It’s weird but the bet­ter I play, the worse he seems to get. He con­tin­ues to drink at tour­na­ments. On rare oc­ca­sions when I’m run­ner-up, he takes my ‘los­ing tro­phy’ and smashes it.” The abuse would lead to her con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide to es­cape the tor­ment. “In a way it was re­ally lib­er­at­ing to write it,” she tells Week­end of the book, co-au­thored by jour­nal­ist Jes­sica Hal­lo­ran. “But at the end it’s such a dif­fi­cult process go­ing through all the drafts, and edit­ing. “I had to read it about 10 or 15 times. “It was very hard at times, be­cause you con­stantly had to go over and over the re­ally dif­fi­cult parts, the re­ally hard times. “Parts of it were a re­lief to get it out, but also at times it was emo­tion­ally drain­ing.”

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