Jelena Dokic: ‘I needed to virtually reinvent myself’

She’s an Aussie tennis nice who has survived home violence and psychological well being challenges. Now Jelena Dokic is embracing her new life and fearlessly talking out.

Jelena Dokic is describing how she will get goosebumps when she walks by means of Melbourne Park, house to the Australian Open tennis event, on balmy summer time evenings in January.

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“The sundown is coming over town and also you’ve received matches occurring on the Australian Open and it’s packed, and Rod Laver Area is preparing for the evening session,” Jelena displays, her voice filled with emotion.

“I imply it’s completely loopy — in a great way.”

Regardless of all she has endured — on the court docket and off it — Jelena’s ardour for the game that thrust her into the highlight as a susceptible younger youngster has by no means left her.

Compelled to retire from her skilled tennis profession in 2014 because of damage, Jelena has channelled her love of the sport right into a commentary profession and located gentler methods to train, reminiscent of strolling and pilates, to profit her mindset as a lot as her physique.

The previous world No.4 and Wimbledon semi-finalist has change into a mentor to younger gamers, providing them the type of nurturing encouragement that was so sorely lacking from her personal time as a younger participant.

And she or he is an avid spectator, saying she is usually as enthralled by the newcomers on the present courts because the Grand Slam legends in a nail-biting last.

“I’ve a lot love and keenness for the sport,” she says.

“I believe that may come throughout in my commentating as effectively as a result of I completely love each single a part of it.

“I really feel like I could make a distinction with my commentary, to have the ability to encourage the folks listening.”

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Reinventing Jelena Dokic

Jelena was born in Croatia to a Serbian father and Croatian mom.

The household lived in Serbia as refugees and settled in Sydney when Jelena was 11.

“The sport of tennis will at all times be part of me, it doesn’t matter what I do, and so will the Australian Open, and so will Australia — that’s my house; that’s my coronary heart,” says Jelena, who additionally performed for Yugoslavia, and Serbia and Montenegro, for a spell throughout her profession.

Being pressured to desert the sport earlier than she was prepared, at age 31, was an enormous wrench and prompted the star to expertise one thing of an identification disaster.

“It was scary,” she says.

“I didn’t know what my identification was going to be as a result of I’ve at all times been a tennis participant.

“It’s one thing I’ve achieved my complete life from a really younger age – I didn’t know anything.

“I needed to actually virtually reinvent myself.”

And reinvent herself she has, as a motivational speaker and insightful commentator.

She has additionally discovered time for brand spanking new hobbies — she has change into good at pottery and is raring to take up dancing and aerial yoga, and prepare for a marathon.

“I’m actually trying to do issues that I take pleasure in and that make me actually completely happy, but additionally issues that I can do with pals,” she says.

“That’s been an enormous factor. To have the ability to do issues with pals, as a result of while you’re an expert athlete, you don’t get to try this as a lot.”

Going through a troublesome previous

Retirement additionally got here with one other courageous “step into the unknown”.

Jelena penned her best-selling memoir, Unbreakable.

Within the unflinchingly trustworthy autobiography, she detailed the horrific abuse she suffered by the hands of her father — and coach — Damir Dokic.

“I had no thought (once I wrote it) what was going to occur and what I used to be form of getting myself into,” she says.

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“It was extraordinarily cathartic, however I didn’t know that it could do this (present therapeutic and aid).

“I didn’t do it for that purpose both.”

She says the motivation for opening up about her ordeal was to assist others.

“Even when it’s only one or two folks, it’s all value it,” she says.

“We don’t speak about a whole lot of this stuff (psychological well being and home violence), not simply as a society, however in sport and tennis.”

Jelena is proud that sharing her story has resulted in organisational change inside Tennis Australia to raised shield the following era.

A voice for constructive change

She’s additionally spearheading change inside the media.

Having been on the receiving finish of intense scrutiny as a participant whereas struggling horrible trauma at house has influenced the way in which she approaches her commentary and post-match interviews.

She actually empathises with the strain elite sportspeople are underneath.

It’s why you gained’t hear her becoming a member of the refrain of critics of Nick Kyrgios.

And it’s additionally why she grew to become overwhelmed with emotion when Ash Barty gained Wimbledon.

Not simply due to her pleasure at seeing a fellow Aussie succeed, however as a result of she felt a way of wistful admiration for the loving house Barty comes from.

“Clearly, up to now and with my story, I believe sure issues in my profession weren’t lined correctly (by the media) they usually had been specializing in the incorrect issues,” she says.

“There was a whole lot of speak when my ebook got here out about that with the media saying that they centered on the incorrect issues and even apologising and saying they need to have paid extra consideration.

“That’s nice, however I nonetheless need to proceed to make use of my profile within the media to verify we cowl issues which might be crucial points.”

That’s why Jelena shortly known as for motion when video surfaced of a teenage participant being assaulted by her father final November.

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Jelena says there must be stronger and extra unified insurance policies in place around the globe to guard younger gamers.

“You’ve received to take heed to survivor tales,” she explains.

“Sure, it’s most likely going to be actually exhausting to eradicate it (home violence), however we can not even begin to repair something or change something if we don’t speak about it.”

A supply of energy

Jelena is now lending her voice to extra points near her coronary heart.

She has written a follow-up ebook, this time aimed toward serving to people who find themselves battling trauma, physique picture and psychological well being points.

It’s a supply of frustration for her there may be nonetheless a lot emphasis positioned on feminine athletes’ appearances.

“We’re underneath a whole lot of strain, not simply within the sport, but additionally outdoors of it,” she says.

“As soon as I finished enjoying tennis — and I’ve been very open and trustworthy about my journey — it was actually powerful for me.

“I handled anxiousness and melancholy. I survived virtually committing suicide.

“I believe folks generally don’t perceive that additionally impacts what our physique goes by means of and never simply our thoughts.”

Jelena hopes talking out will make folks assume twice earlier than commenting on anybody’s look.

“I get actually emotional speaking about that.

“Not due to myself however due to concern for different ladies and ladies.

“I can deal with it. I’ve gone on the market and I’ve talked about folks commenting on my physique, or my weight or my dimension.

“I believe that was actually vital to do as a result of so many ladies have come as much as me or despatched me messages saying, ‘Thanks for doing that as a result of I really feel the similar’.”

Want somebody to speak to? Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au Past Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Written by Siobhan Duck.