x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dokic is back again and hungry for success

Troubled star's appetite for winning titles again to be applauded.

Jelena Dokic won her sixth WTA title by beating Lucie Safarova in the Malaysia Open. Lai Seng Sin / AP Photo
Jelena Dokic won her sixth WTA title by beating Lucie Safarova in the Malaysia Open. Lai Seng Sin / AP Photo

That Jelena Dokic can get through a day is rather impressive. That she still has the will and the skill to win a WTA tournament is more noteworthy yet.

Dokic exploded on to the world stage in 1999 when she was 16 and a qualifier at Wimbledon. In the first round there she destroyed the world No 1 Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-0. Hello, indeed.

She reached the quarter-finals that year, the semi-finals the next, played in the Olympic semi-finals in 2000 and made the last eight of the French Open in 2002.

While still a teenager she had won five WTA tournament titles and was ranked No 4 in the world, in August of 2002.

Her strength and fluidity on the court could not, however, cover up a web of personal problems daunting even by the often weird standards of tennis starlets.

Her father, Damir, was described as "the tennis father from hell". He was banned from WTA events for six months after run-ins with officials and journalists. In 2009, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison in Belgrade for threatening the Australian ambassador with a hand grenade.

Meantime, Jelena was a woman without a country, bouncing from her native Croatia to Yugoslavia to Australia to Serbia and back to Australia. Her life was chaos.

It was no surprise when she began to fade in 2004. Years were lost. She played on the second-tier ITF circuit. Her weight ballooned to 83kg by late 2007.

She rallied briefly in 2009, making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and taking her ranking to No 56, but injuries ruined 2010. It was fair to ask if a career that began with such fanfare would end in obscurity.

Not yet. On Sunday, she fought off two match points to defeat Lucie Safarova 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 and win the Malaysia Open, her sixth WTA title but first since 2002.

She credited her brother, Savo, and her boyfriend with helping her through a tournament in which she ousted the top-seeded Francesca Schiavone.

"I just kept pushing and pulling myself up to win the match," said Dokic, now 27. "I'm very happy to win the tournament. After winning one, your appetite gets bigger and it will be the key to maintaining the momentum."

Whether she can build on the victory is the next big question in Dokic's strange career. Her grit in getting this far is impressive.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae