A FIT-AGAIN Jelena Dokic will this morning try to make her Christmas and New Year a little less stressful by securing early entry into the main draw of the Australian Open.
Dokic is one of 16 women competing for a solitary place in the Open, to be earned by winning the wildcard play-off tournament beginning today at Melbourne Park.
The tournament, which also has a men’s draw, gives local players a chance to qualify for next month’s grand slam tournament without having to get through the official qualifying tournament, which is open to all nationalities.
Dokic’s ranking of 179 is a far cry from her peak of No.4 in 2002, although the 25-year-old said she was much fitter than she had been during recent Open qualifying attempts.
"I’ve played a lot more this year and got my ranking up enough to get into qualifying for all of the [Australian] events, so it’s been a lot better … it’s probably the best year I’ve had in the last three years," Dokic said.
"There’s still work to do. With the lack of matches and play, and starting from zero, I’m not where I want to be, but considering how much I’ve played – I put all the hard work in, especially at the end of the season – I think I’ve done a good job."
Dokic, who has been in Melbourne for a week, is easily the oldest in her group, in which she will play 18-year-old Marija Mirkovic and 16-year-olds Monika Wejnert and Sophie Letcher. Other entrants in the women’s draw include Jessica Moore, who reached the second round of this year’s Australian and US Opens, Sophie Ferguson and Jade Hopper.
The oldest and youngest entrants in the men’s competition, 33-year-old Joe Sirianni and 16-year-old Bernard Tomic, will face each other in the round-robin stage. This week’s tournament will be Tomic’s first since he walked off in a match this month after his father, John, embroiled himself in an argument with the umpire.
John Tomic apologised to Tennis Australia on Saturday for instigating the walk-off, and Bernard echoed those sentiments yesterday.
"It’s a mistake that we made. We apologised but I’ve got to look forward now, that’s the main thing," he said. "Funny things happen but now it’s an important part of my career where I’ve got to look forward and put these things aside."
Tomic, this year’s Australian Open junior champion, also insisted he would not seek a new coach to replace his father. "My dad brought me to where I am now, to make history in juniors, so I’m really happy with what I have now … and I’ll stick with it until I feel like I need another coach," he said.
Veteran Peter Luczak, attempting to regain form after an injury-plagued year, has been drawn in the same group as 18-year-old Brydan Klein, who two years ago beat him in the first round of the play-off tournament when it was a knockout format.
Robert Smeets, Sam Groth and US-based Carsten Ball are among the other men vying for the single Open wildcard.