Lucic, Dokic happy to drop daddy issues
Date published :
17 Jun 2011 - 01:30:02
As precocious teenagers in 1999, Mirjana Lucic and Jelena Dokic rocked Wimbledon before their worlds fell apart under the heavy hands of their fathers.
Eleven years on, and now pushing 30, both bear the scars of journeys that took wrong turns, in stark contrast to Wimbledon family success stories like Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.
Lucic had the world at her feet at the end of the 1990s.
The German-born Croatian had been the youngest ever Grand Slam champion when, at just 15, she partnered Martina Hingis to the women's doubles title at the Australian Open.
Then, when she was 17, and ranked 134, she stunned Monica Seles on her way to the 1999 Wimbledon semi-finals, where she took a set off Steffi Graf before losing.
But her career and private life then went into freefall.
She accused her father of physical abuse before she -- as well as her mother and four siblings -- staged a night-time escape to the United States.
Lucic disappeared off the WTA radar for four years, her desperate financial troubles preventing her from travelling to tournaments.
But she launched a gentle comeback which saw her make the second round of the US Open in 2010 in what was just her second major appearance in eight years.
"I never quit," said 29-year-old Lucic, who is back in the world 100 and will be at Wimbledon again this year.
"It wasn't that I lost my love for tennis, it was family problems. It was all very unfortunate.
"The reason why I went away, the reason my career didn't go necessarily the way I thought it would and I planned it would, was just family issues. But once that has been sort of taken away for years, you haven't had that feeling, it's incredible. Every match gives me such satisfaction."
Florida-based Lucic has certainly registered with the modern generation.
"I used to see a lot of her because she lived close to the (Bolletieri) academy. I knew that she had great results in the past and that she can play," said Sharapova.
Like Lucic, Dokic announced herself at Wimbledon in 1999 when she caused one of the biggest shocks, beating world number one Hingis 6-2, 6-0, in the first round.
Ranked 129 at the time, and having come through the qualifying rounds, Dokic was the lowest-ranked player to have defeated the top seed in a Grand Slam tournament during the Open era.
But Dokic struggled for years to escape the notorious influence of her father Damir.
In a series of bizarre episodes, Damir Dokic was banned from the All England Club, claimed his daughter had been kidnapped and, in 2009, was charged with threatening the Australian ambassador to Serbia and illegal possession of firearms.
Dokic managed to piece together a second stage of her career, reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2009, capturing the imagination as stories emerged of her being penniless and sleeping on a friend's floor.
But just don't ask the fiesty Australian about her father.
"I've answered a lot of questions over the last four or five years. I think everybody knows the story."
At the French Open, Mirjana Lucic played women's doubles with France'e Aravane Rezai, who recently filed a complaint against her father Arsalan for "harassment, intentional violence and death threats".
Rezai, 24, who is of Iranian descent, severed contact with her family after falling out with her father in January.
Arsalan has been involved in numerous incidents affecting his daughter in recent years, earning him fines or exclusions from tournaments.
At the Australian Open in January, the WTA said one of Rezai's relatives had been suspended indefinitely from tour events without giving details.
French media reported at the time that the incident involved a violent altercation between Rezai's father and her boyfriend.
Rezai's compatriot Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, is prepared to snub a second successive Olympic Games as she remains devoted to her father Walter, who has coached her since she was six.
Their independent status has ruled her out of Fed Cup contention -- a qualifying criteria for Olympics selection -- where coaches are all appointed by the French tennis federation.
"Unfortunately, in the French team there are some rules you have to comply with that are not good for me. For the time being I know I can't change. I don't change my mind every second," said Bartoli.