Aussie tennis great Jelena Dokic has declared the “system is broken” in world tennis when it comes to protecting young players from violence.
The former World No. 4 outlined her plan to fix the glaring issue in the wake of “sickening” vision going viral of a 14-year-old player getting beaten up by her coach in Serbia.
A Chinese citizen has now been arrested over the disgusting attack on the defenceless youngster, but Dokic, who was herself brutally beaten by her father at a young age, has declared this cannot be the end of the story.
“It was just sickening to watch, as someone who’s been through it,” Dokic told Nine’s Today Show.
“I was actually kicked until I was unconscious a week before the US Open when I was 16 and it wasn’t the only time.
“Unfortunately, what happens behind closed doors is even worse.”
Dokic shared reports the man in question had allegedly physically abused young players before but had been allowed to continue coaching due to inadequacies in tennis policies.
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“Allegedly this is not the first time. Allegedly the father and the coach of this 14-year-old girl beat up someone at a tennis academy a few weeks ago,” Dokic said.
“He’s done this to this girl as well, so my question is why is this happening?
“He was banned from a couple of clubs, but he can continue to be at different clubs and different tournaments, so the system clearly is broken – there’s something missing.”
Dokic was clearly devastated the man was able to continue coaching and attending tennis events around the world despite the allegations against him.
She called for stronger policies to be implemented throughout world tennis to ensure a unified approach to put an end to the abuse of young players.
“I don’t think there is enough in place (to prevent these incidents), we need to have registers in place and lists of coaches and parents,” Dokic said.
“If you’ve done this (abuse) already and you’re banned from a club or academy you shouldn’t be allowed to step anywhere near a tennis club.
“Can we have an anonymous platform to get help? Who is looking after these kids?
“Someone needs to be responsible for the wellbeing of these young kids, especially girls.”
The Croatian-born tennis great explained that a successful system is currently used in Australian tennis due to her own experiences of abuse while a youngster in the country.
“I think that Tennis Australia is a leader in this in the world, since my case there’s a lot in place when it comes to this type of thing happening here,” Dokic said.
“If this happened in Australia and the father was already banned from a tennis club he wouldn’t be allowed to step near a tennis court.
“I’m really happy that we’ve got a much better system in Australia, but tennis is a global sport, we need action on a global scale.”
While she acknowledged it would take a huge effort to implement a similar system across the world, Dokic announced she was happy to drive the much-needed change.
“I’m certainly going to try and drive this change and push for this, that’s what I’ve done all along, I’m going to use my platform and social media as well,” she said.
“I hope that the rest of the tennis community does as well, players ex-players, coaches.”
The issue is clearly close to Dokic’s heart given the harrowing experiences of her childhood.
In her 2017 autobiography Unbreakable Dokic revealed the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her father during her tennis career.
She revealed she suffered regular beatings with a belt or a hard-capped boot, including one incident which saw her knocked unconscious.
She wrote that Tennis Australia had reported concerns about Dokic’s welfare at the time.
Dokic wrote in the book: “A mediocre training session, a loss, a bad mood — any of these trigger him to bring out the belt. My losing particularly sends my father into a rage. I rarely lose but when I do the consequence is brutal,” Dokic and Halloran wrote in Unbreakable.
“Then he tells me to take off my shirt. It hurts a lot less when you have your shirt on and that’s why he makes me take it off. I stand in my bra, my back to him, and he orders me not to move as he hits me. Often he almost slices my skin with the belt.”
She also said in a 2017 interview with The Project the constant abuse became “normal”.
“You get to a stage after that happening for a couple of years where it’s just your everyday life and you accept it as being, let’s say normal,” Dokic said.
“That’s what my life was about, that’s what I had to deal with literally on a day-to-day basis.
“There was always something even if it at times wasn’t physical, which was very rare, it was emotional. There was always something that I didn’t do right.”