King pays tribute to inspirational Dokic

  • Linda Pearce

The mother of professional women’s tennis, Billie Jean King, has spoken of her admiration for Jelena Dokic and the fact that more was not done to rescue the young Australian from the abuse perpetrated by her tyrannical father, Damir.

“I remember on the tour and I remember things weren’t right. But in those days, you didn’t understand anything very much,” said King, the founder of the WTA Tour. "Now it’s all clear. I’ve had 25 years of psychotherapy. I can understand all this now.

MORE: King says Australia 'made a difference'

“I mean, if I was on the tour now and Jelena was going through (what she was), I would have known something was up. (If) I would have been on the tour, I would have gotten in there. It’s just not clear. You don’t want to be pushy either. You don’t know. It’s difficult.”

In her best-selling autobiography, Unbroken, Dokic has chronicled the physical and mental abuse she suffered from the age of six until she fled the family home at 19.

Speaking on Thursday at a Tennis Australia Symposium, the Australian Open 2018 Inspirational Series, Dokic confirmed the “incredible” reaction the memoir had received since its release late last year.

“I never really knew going into this how big it would be, how much attention my story would get, and how much support I would get,’’ the former world No.4 and Wimbledon semifinalist said.

“I never went into it thinking about myself or doing it for myself. It was more the fact that I knew this could help people. At the end of my book I write that if it helps one person, it’s mission accomplished, and I think it’s already done so much more than that, and that’s what’s been so great about this.

“Personally, on the other side, the day the book came out was, to me, the greatest day of my life. This huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and it felt incredibly good. I wish I could have done it earlier, but I just wasn’t ready, and it’s been incredible.

“Going forward, I still want to see what more I can do and where I can take this. I’m pretty much the first one to talk about this publicly, so openly. I was very open and honest in my book – I went into a lot of detail, which was very hard, but I felt like it was a story that needed to be told.”

As to whether others in tennis were trapped in similarly violent situations, Dokic said: “Look, I’m sure there is, because quite a few people didn’t know about mine, either, so I’m sure there is. But this is not only about tennis, it’s not only about sport, it’s about everyday life, because it is happening.”

Condemning the media who made fun of her father’s wild antics and crazy behaviour when “you just had to stop for a minute and think, well, there is a 14 or 15-year-old girl going home with this person”, Dokic said many people had told her they found Unbroken to be difficult reading. Which is a good thing, if it helps to end the culture of silence that existed for so long.

She is now in a far happier and healthier place and has been for several years. “I battled depression for a very long time and almost committed suicide about 10 years ago, so it’s been all about getting better. Depression is something that you now have for the rest of your life, that you need to take care of and be aware of,” she said.

“Something really kind of changed when I turned 30, a couple of years ago, and I realised that I was unhappy for such a long time, there were more tears than happy times, so I decided to change that and look forward and have the second part of my life and live happily.

“Hopefully having my own children one day I want to break the cycle in my family and just give them an example and show them a different way.”