In 1999, a shy, 16-year-old Australian named Yelena Dokic stunned the tennis world when she defeated world number one Martina Hingis. Over the next few years the Yugoslavian-born prodigy executed a stunning rise through the rankings, from 129th at the time of that legendary match to world number four in 2002.
She became one of tennis’ golden girls. But while television audiences and stadium crowds cheered Jelena on court, behind closed doors she was allegedly subjected to shocking violence at the hands of her coach father, Damir.
Now aged 34, Yelena has released an extraordinary autobiography detailing the sustained physical and emotional abuse, which began at the age of six. And how there is a good man in this confronting story, one who helped her find a way out of the “dark place” her childhood had built for her.
Her partner and former part-time coach, Tin Bikic.
It was Jelena’s first boyfriend, Formula One driver Enrique Bernoldi, who helped her flee her family home in the middle of the night in 2002 (she had no money, no credit cards; just a tennis racket and bag).
And speaking to The Project on Monday night, she said it was her second, whom she met a year later, that helped her deal with the ongoing psychological impact of the abuse.
“[Tin is] such a positive person and such a calm person,” she said. “We had so much pressure and he had pressure from my father and he had to face so much. One of the positives of the whole situation, [was] meeting him, while I was at a tournament is, yes, it’s him.”
There were moments when things became so dark that she struggled to “find anything positive of why I should stay on this earth”, but now, there is hope.
“It is good to finally have peace now, especially for the last few years,” she told the Channel 10 program. “I wish I had it earlier because I stayed quiet for so long. It is important, because if this book can help one person, then it is mission accomplished and that’s what it is about.”