Dokic proves no one-hit wonder

Teen stuns Pierce in 2 sets, reaches Wimbledon quarters

June 29, 1999|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Oh, to be 16 and fearless at Wimbledon.

That's the tale of Jelena Dokic, this year's phenom, this year's kid with wide blue eyes and a dancing ponytail.

Yesterday, Dokic continued her remarkable run through Wimbledon, beating Mary Pierce, 6-4, 6-3, and providing a brisk performance on a breezy, rainy afternoon.

Snorting like a prize fighter and slamming winners from improbable angles, Dokic showed she was no fluke, going from the qualifiers to the quarterfinals, while knocking off No. 1 Martina Hingis along the way.

Even Dokic admitted that her assault on Wimbledon grass is "a bit hard to believe."

"Qualifying and getting to the quarters was a good achievement," she said. "I want more. Hopefully I will go farther."

And she could.

By dropping Hingis in the opening round and Pierce in the fourth round, Dokic opened Wimbledon in fascinating ways, providing real mystery in the women's draw.

A few reliable veterans remain. Reigning champion and No. 5 seed Jana Novotna defeated Nathalie Dechy, 6-3, 7-5, to advance to what could be a bruising quarterfinal against No. 3 Lindsay Davenport, a 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 winner over Austrian Barbara Schett.

Novotna, still hobbled by a badly sprained left ankle, wasn't even sure if she would be playing at Wimbledon. Now, she's in the quarterfinals.

"It's a miracle," Novotna said.

But her luck could run out against Davenport, who has beaten her five times and relishes the opportunity to make a breakthrough on grass.

"I've spent a lot of time on grass and feel I've got nothing to lose," Davenport said. "You've got to attack the ball. And I've got to keep my momentum."

While the rest of the women's round of 16 was left log-jammed by rain yesterday, the focus was on Dokic, the teen who was born in Yugoslavia but whose career and thick accent were polished on hard courts in her new home, Australia.

Ever since she dumped Hingis in the opening round, Dokic has been the story of the women's tournament. With sizzling ground strokes, steely composure and a little skip in her step, she hop-scotched through the draw, proving to herself and her opponents that she was no one-hit wonder.

While the British tabloids were making much of her story, Dokic said she studiously avoided reading the papers. A good move, since much of the coverage concentrated on her father, Damir, who was portrayed as a Svengali with a biting temper. He was expelled from a tuneup tournament in Birmingham for being loud during one of his daughter's matches.

"What's in the papers is out of the real world," Dokic said.

The way she is playing here is hard to believe, too.

"Beating Hingis is probably still in my head," she said. "Did that really happen? Am I able to beat top players?"

Pierce, the No. 9 seed, was supposed to end the fairy tale, was supposed to use her cunning and power to short-circuit the kid.

But it didn't happen. With the crowd crammed into every nook and cranny of the intimate Court 2, it was Pierce who fell apart after quickly racing to a 3-0 first-set lead.

Dokic kept aiming for the lines, out-powering Pierce and forcing the veteran to retreat. It was Pierce whose serving went awry as she lost the opening set, and who then wilted in the second set, buckling on the long rallies by spraying shots long or wide.

"I got off to a bit of a slow start," Dokic said. "I didn't know what to expect from her."

Dokic said she wasn't playing as well as she had against Hingis. No matter. It was good enough.

"Beating Mary in two sets, you've got to think my level was high," said Dokic, who will next meet the winner of the Lisa Raymond-Alexandra Stevenson match.

But can Dokic win Wimbledon?

"That's going far," she said. "Getting to the quarterfinals, it's anyone's tournament. I think anyone has a chance."

Could this be the start of a brilliant career, or is the kid destined to be a flash in the pan?

Pierce, once a phenom, and now a steady veteran, thought for a moment and said, "That's a tough question. It's too premature to ask that kind of question. You never know. You never know."

Yesterday's results

Men's singles

Fourth round: Andre Agassi (4), United States, def. Wayne Arthurs, Australia, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, 6-4. Gustavo Kuerten (11), Brazil, def. Lorenzo Manta, Switzerland, 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Suspended matches: Tim Henman (6), Britain, leads Jim Courier, United States, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 4-3. Cedric Pioline, France, leads Karol Kucera (13), Slovakia, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 1-0.

Women's singles

Fourth round: Lindsay Davenport (3), United States, def. Barbara Schett (14), Austria, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1. Jana Novotna (5), Czech Republic, def. Nathalie Dechy, France, 6-3, 7-5. Jelena Dokic, Australia, def. Mary Pierce (9), France, 6-4, 6-3.

Suspended matches: Steffi Graf (2), Germany, leads Kim Clijsters, Netherlands, 6-2, 4-2. Nathalie Tauziat (8), France, leads Dominique Van Roost (15), Belgium, 6-3, 0-1. Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand, is even with Mirjana Lucic, Croatia, 5-5.

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