Former world No 4 Jelena Dokic has revealed the horrific physical and verbal beatings she was subjected to as a player by her father Damir.
Dokic, who was born in Yugoslavia but emigrated to Australia with her family when she was 11 years old , has laid bare the extent of the abuse she suffered at her father's hands in her autobiography Unbreakable, which was released this week.
“He beat me really badly,” Dokic, now 34, writes. “It basically started day one of me playing tennis. It continued on from there. It spiralled out of control.
“Not just the physical pain but the emotional [pain], that was the one what hurt me the most . . . when you are 11, 12 years old and hear all those nasty things...that was more difficult for me.”
Dokic describes how her father would spit in her face, pull her hair and ears, and kick her in the shins. In one particularly harrowing story, Dokic - who played under the Australian flag, as well as those of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro - describes how her father abandoned her after she had lost the 2000 Wimbledon semi-final to Lindsay Davenport.
Dokic writes of her conversation with Damir after the match: “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. I don’t care.’ ”
Eventually Dokic was discovered alone in the players' lounge at 11pm by tournament referee Alan Mills, who arranged her accommodation for the night.
Later that summer at a tournament in Canada Damir beat his daughter to the point that she lost consciousness. “The blow to the head fells me and, as I lie on the floor he starts kicking me, he kicks me near my ear and my vision blurs,” Dokic writes.
On Monday Dokic questioned why more was not done to protect her by the tennis authorities in Australia, claiming she thought they “kind of assumed” what was happening.
Tennis Australia has since released a statement, admitting that concerns for Dokic were reported to the police at the time. “Some officials even went as far as lodging police complaints, which without co-operation from those directly involved, unfortunately could not be fully investigated,” it said.