MELBOURNE, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Jelena Dokic struggled to hold back her emotions at the Australian Open on Monday as she finally revealed the extent of the pain and torment she has endured since breaking up with her own family.
Dokic was all smiles after she registered her first win at Melbourne Park in a decade by beating Austria’s Tamira Paszek 6-2 3-6 6-4 but broke down at her post-match news conference as she recounted her family problems.
“I went through hell and back,” she said, her voice cracking as tears welled in her eyes.
“I pretty much lost my family. I had no-one there. I was really struggling.
“I battled severe depression for about two years. I didn’t play for months at a time. I was really seriously thinking about not playing. It was a tough time in my life.”
Dokic said she still does not speak with her father but is now trying to mend her relationship with her mother and brother.
“As soon as I left home, my relationship went down the hill with my dad. It went down the hill with my whole family,” said the 25-year-old, adding she had put on weight and did not even pick up a racket for seven months.
“The biggest thing I regret is my brother, who’s eight years younger than me. I didn’t have contact with him for years until the last 12 months. That was the hardest thing to deal with.
“But, I still feel like I’ve lost them. I’ll try my best to do what I can to patch up my things with my brother and my mom.”
Dokic was once regarded as one of the brightest prospects in women’s tennis when she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2000 and a world ranking of four but her early success was overshadowed by events off the court.
In 1999, her father was cited for drunk and disorderly conduct after an incident at a tournament in England, where he lay down in the middle of the road after being ejected from the event.
The following year, he was thrown out of Wimbledon after he smashed a journalist’s mobile phone and was then evicted from the U.S. Open following an outburst over the price of salmon in a restaurant.
In 2001, he accused Australian Open organisers of rigging the draw to ensure his daughter lost in the first round, then ordered his family to leave Australia and move back to Serbia.
Two years later, Jelena had had enough and walked out to live by herself. She initially lived in Europe but then returned to Australia, appealing for people to forgive her as she had never wanted to leave in the first place.
“I had so much to go through while my dad was on the tour,” she said. “I was just so young and just had no real idea what was going on.
“It was really difficult to take all that, what was going on off the court, all the outbursts.
“I played with a huge pressure on my shoulders... I kind of just cracked by the time I was 19.”
Dokic tried to resurrect her tennis career but was unable to find the motivation. She considered quitting in 2007 before deciding to make one last attempt to get back in shape and form.
“Tennis is not the most important thing in the world but it’s something that I love,” she said.
“It’s really a miracle for me and it’s really emotional to win today. I don’t know how I turned it around because this time last year I was still trying. I gave myself another six months.
“I’m really enjoying my tennis. It doesn’t really have anything to do with ranking, money or anything. I just really love the game. I think if I didn’t like it so much, I don’t think I would have played again.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar