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Changing sides

Dokic to be recognized as Yugoslav at Open

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Posted: Sunday January 14, 2001 8:36 AM

  Jelena Dokic Jelena Dokic: "I'm No. 1 in Australia and yet I have to play Lindsay Davenport... that was one of the reasons for my decision." AP

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -- Tennis officials said Sunday they had accepted Jelena Dokic's decision to play the Australian Open as a Yugoslav rather than an Australian, signalling Dokic's rocky relationship with her adopted home is probably over.

The 17-year-old, whose father is banned from attending her matches because of bad behaviour, has said she and her family plan to leave Australia after the tournament because she feels she has been unfairly treated by Australian media.

She told a Sydney newspaper Saturday she would play the season-opening Grand Slam event, which starts Monday in Melbourne, under a Yugoslav flag rather than an Australia one.

Tennis Australia President Geoff Pollard said Open organizers had been told of Dokic's decision by womens' tennis governing body the WTA Tour and had agreed to amend the draw to recognize her choice of citizenship.

"We will accept this and amend the Australian 2001 draw accordingly," Pollard said.

Dokic was born in Yugoslavia but moved to Australia with her family in 1994. She carries dual citizenship after she received a Yugoslav passport in Belgrade last November, not long after she represented Australia at the Sydney Olympics.

Dokic repeated Sunday she wanted to play for Yugoslavia because she was unhappy with Friday's draw -- she faces defending champion Lindsay Davenport on Monday -- and her treatment by the Australian media.

"I'm number one in Australia and yet I have to play Lindsay Davenport... that was one of the reasons for my decision," Jelena Dokic said. "And also I've been unhappy with the media coverage."

Dokic's father Damir reacted angrily Friday after his daughter was drawn to play world number two Davenport in the opening round, saying his daughter had cried and suggesting the draw had been rigged against her.

"I think the draw is fixed just for her," Damir Dokic told Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper. "She feels betrayed... now she will always play for Yugoslavia. After this draw we don't have anything left here."

Unseeded players like Jelena Dokic are drawn at random according to a computer program. Pollard defended the tournament's draw, which was televised nationally.

"That's just the way it came out," Pollard told reporters. "He should know that all draws are done the same way."

"It's the luck of the draw -- you get good draws, you get bad draws. She has had good ones and bad ones before," he said.

Jelena Dokic made similar claims after being handed a tough Australian Open draw last year.

Davenport, who will face Wimbledon semifinalist Dokic on center court Monday, expressed sympathy for her opponent.

"That's a little bit of a shame. I don't think it has a lot to do with her, though," Davenport told reporters.

"She seems like a really nice girl, and maybe there are some unfortunate circumstances there."

Damir Dokic said his family would move to the United States a week or two after the Australian Open ended.

Australian tennis great Rod Laver -- a two time Grand Slam winner -- defended tournament officials against Damir Dokic's claims but also expressed sympathy for the teenager.

"To claim that she has been shunned or taken advantage of to me seems ridiculous... the draw for the tournament is completely fair," Laver, 62, told reporters.

"It is a sad day for her, I think," he said.

Damir Dokic was banned from the women's tour for six months after he was forcibly removed from the U.S. Open in August for verbally abusing staff in the players' lounge.

Before the ugly U.S. Open incident, sparked by a dispute over the price of a plate of salmon, Damir Dokic was barred from Wimbledon last June after causing disturbances and breaking a journalist's mobile phone.

He was also involved in a scuffle with a television crew at last year's Australian Open. Last November he vowed to moderate his behavior in the interests of his daughter's career.

 
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