In 2021, Jelena Dokic's partner of 19 years dumped her on FaceTime. It triggered a terrifying spiral.

The following is an excerpt from Jelena Dokic's book, Fearless: Finding the power to thrive

Tin and me.

Tin Bikic is the kindest person I know. He has a heart of gold. He was there for me through years no one else was, my one constant. He is a calm, centred, funny human being.

I called him my rock, and for good reason.

He was supposed to be my forever person, but at the end of 2021 I found myself in a situation I never thought I'd be in – dealing with our relationship breakdown after nineteen years together.

This break-up led me into one of the hardest times of my life. It still hurts my heart now – I think it always will. I thought long and hard about writing this chapter because our separation was, and still can be, incredibly difficult for me to talk about. But I believe my experience is worthwhile sharing because so many of us go through heartbreak in one way or another. I guess it is part of being human  – losing people we love. And I think talking about that, and being able to share our pain with others, is one way to deal with these kinds of losses.

Watch: The Mamamia team confessed the moment they knew their relationship was done. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Anyone who has been through a separation, divorce or break-up with their partner knows the horrible mix of feelings. For some they include a sense of failure, of rejection; we can feel lonely, inadequate, angry. And when you have abandonment issues already, like I do, the breaking up of a really significant and long relationship can literally floor you. Almost destroy you. The split with Tin nearly destroyed me.

To understand how important he was to my life, let me explain how and when we met.

We met when we were both twenty years old. Our paths first crossed on the tennis tour in 2003. The year before, I had fled my family and my father's abusive ways. I was in a fragile state. I was trying to get my form back, which had had me at No. 4 in the world only a few months before.

At the same time, I  was dealing with my father and mother turning up unannounced to WTA events and to hotels where they'd tracked me down in an attempt to coax me 'back home'. My father would arrive at events while I was playing and the WTA security would make him leave. It was horrible – I felt as though he still had me trapped. So in a way there seemed to be no escape from him.

When I look back at my first meeting with Tin, which was at a tournament hotel in Vienna, it was not love at first sight. But a few months later we reconnected and started dating. He quickly become a true ally in my life as I was trying to piece it together following the separation from my family.


Tin was a great listener. I remember feeling almost instantly comfortable with him – he was so calm and would hear people attentively. I think that's the thing I was most struck by – his respectfulness. His calmness in the chaos of my life, and his kindness.

Jelena Dokic and Tin Bikic. Image: Getty.


What I also liked about Tin was that he understood sport. In his late teens he had become a talented sprinter, one who had the potential to go to the Olympics, though that dream was stopped by injury and lack of access to facilities because of tough conditions in Croatia. He had an understanding of what it took to be the best you can be as an athlete – how to deal with the highs and the lows that a sporting career can toss up.

I remember at the 2003 US Open I was having a very difficult time with my family  – a lot of the reason being that I was still emotionally and financially distancing myself from them. After my mother arrived at my New York hotel room and demanded I sign over our house in Saddlebrook, Florida, to my father, I called Tin, knowing that speaking to him would calm me down and take my focus off the pressure I was feeling.

I was really sad.

I lost in the second round of that grand slam and Tin was the first one to call me after the match. I told him I wasn't feeling good; we talked about the disappointment I felt about my tennis, how life was overwhelming. In Unbreakable I described how I liked having him to talk to about the day: 'The fact is, right now I really can't be alone. I love talking to someone who actually, I think, understands me. Tin's kindness has won my heart.'

When I go back and read those words, I am struck by how the essence of our relationship, of Tin, barely changed over nineteen years. His daily kindness towards me, a highly traumatised person, was exceptional. Tin embodies a high degree of selflessness, of compassion and care.


We come from polar opposite family backgrounds. His home was full of love and positivity. His family enjoyed each other's company and were wholly supportive of each other's dreams. I was struck early on about how he would often talk about how much he'd learnt from his parents. It's no surprise he embodies the best qualities of them.

As you know by now, I have spent the majority of my life thinking I'm not good enough, but when Tin walked into my life, he willed me to believe in myself. He thought the world of me and he believed in me a lot more than I believed in myself. Also, he implored me to never give up. As our relationship blossomed, more and more he showed me deep loyalty and love. In turn I respected him, leant on him, and adored him, to be frank.

In the years around 2005, when I really hit rock bottom and had become suicidal, Tin was crucial to my recovery. He helped save my life.

I wrote this tribute to him in Unbreakable:

"Tin, my rock... We've been together since we were twenty... He's been an unwavering force by my side through more bad times than good. He has never altered. Never let me down. Over the years we have been together I have been overweight, depressed, bankrupt and on the verge of ending my life and he has never once said, 'This is too hard, I am leaving.' He accepts me for who I am. He’s my best friend and the love of my life.


I would not be where I am today, doing what I do in my career after tennis, had it not been for him backing me and believing in me as much as he did."

Listen to No Filter where Mia Freedman interviews Jelena Dokic about her life journey. Post continues below.


So, in 2021 how did it all fall apart?

We didn't fight. There was nothing rocky about our relationship. If you had been in our company, you would have seen we were best friends. Tin was loyal to a fault. We were a great little team. We bounced off each other. He always had my back.

He had gone home to see his father in Zagreb on the eve of the Melbourne lockdown in July 2021. There was nothing unusual about it, he said he would be coming back; we had plans together, and there were no signs to suspect a break-up was coming. He had to visit his father because for so long COVID had stopped us travelling and they hadn't seen each other for more than two years.

I rolled on through the 2021 lockdown in Melbourne alone. The days were long, awful at times and I suffered for it. I spent many, many hours by myself. I would be in communication with Tin on the phone but nothing is a substitute for the physical presence of someone else.

I didn't see the break-up coming. But in early October 2021 I started to sense a slight change in Tin's demeanour. He was a little bit different. How would I describe that? He was a bit distant. He was quieter and also sad.


In Croatia his dad was still dealing with the grief of losing Slava, his wife and Tin's mother. Tin too was still dealing with this loss – he was in deep mourning. I completely understood the importance of him spending time with his family and healing.

But I knew he had not booked a return ticket. He said he would be back in November. Then he told me he would be back in Melbourne at the end of December. But as the end of December was creeping closer, he wouldn't commit to a return date.

He's an introverted character, a quieter style of person, so it wasn't unusual for him not to be very communicative about what he was doing or planning. But I had a sense something was wrong. Yet in the same breath I didn't know what. He just wasn't quite the same. But I thought whatever was going on with him, we could sort it out like we always did.

Then came a FaceTime call two days before Christmas. It had now been five months of uncertainty about what day he would return but he was still promising he would return. So when he called me that day, I was confused: 'It's two days before Christmas and it seems like you have no plans to come back to Melbourne. What is going on?'

Tin started to cry, so much so that it was really hard for him to talk – he was crying a lot. I'd barely ever seen him cry in nineteen years – only when he found out his mum was sick, and when she died. And I could see he couldn't quite even say the words, and feeling sick it dawned on me what those words were. But I found the courage to ask, 'Look, are we done here? Are you ever coming back?'


Then he kind of nodded, as in: 'We are done.'

As I held the phone I was plunged into a state of disbelief. We were over? It was quite incomprehensible. I was in shock. We had hopes of having children. But then, over the phone, two days before Christmas, he was telling me we were done. My mind went into freefall. It all felt so surreal. Weird. Wrong.

Tin had helped keep me alive over the years when all felt lost. I loved him so much. And I was very proud of what we had built through a great many highs and lows. My relationship with him had been the one and only consistent, constant presence in my life and I thought we would always be there for one another.

The other thing that was hard to stomach was that there had been no blazing fights in our relationship. This combined with Tin's inability to articulate why we were 'done', giving me no reasons before Christmas 2021, left me emotionally scrambling.

I think the most natural first step for any of us when we're faced with devastating news like this is initially to begin to process the shock, but also to immediately try to figure out, why?

Image: Supplied.


Fearless: Finding the power to thrive by Jelena Dokic is now available for purchase.

Feature Image: Instagram.

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