January 24, 2009

Serena cheers Jelena Dokic comeback

Tennis's original comeback queen Serena Williams says she is thrilled by Australian Jelena Dokic's fairytale return to form at this year's season-opening grand slam.

The Serb-born former world number four Dokic has captured her adopted homeland's imagination by reaching the last 16 as she returns to grand slam tennis after years in the wilderness due to depression and family strife. Williams, who fell out of the top 100 (to 140 now #2) with injuries then made a stunning comeback to win the 2007 Australian Open as an unseeded player, said she understood what Dokic was going through and was proud of her.

"I've just been so happy for her," she said. "I've been really rooting for her to do so well, I just think her attitude is great." The American, who is the bookies' favourite to claim her fourth Australian title this year, was also full of praise for the tennis that former Wimbledon semi-finalist Dokic has played. "Her game is just amazing now," Williams said. "She looks just the way she looked a while ago when she was able to reach number four in the world."

Williams and Dokic are on the opposite sides of the draw at this year's Open, meaning they will not play each other unless both make the final, a likelihood even the 25-year-old Australian would consider remote. Ranked a lowly 187, Dokic said she entered the tournament hoping to test herself against a top 20 opponent so she could gauge her progress. Instead she has ousted world number 18 Anna Chakvetadze and 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki, with a quarter-fnal berth beckoning if she can defeat Russian 29th seed Alisa Kleybanova.

Dokic renounced her Australian citizenship seven years ago at the urging of her now estranged father Damir and switched her allegiance to Serbia, describing the decision this week as the worst mistake of her life. After a series of poor results in 2004-05 she virtually dropped out of the game, save for a few half-hearted comeback attempts. She suffered severe depression, her weight ballooned and she eventually broke off all contact with her family. However she has since left Serbia and returned to Australia and is making one last attempt to come back.

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