SYDNEY (AP) – Tennis star Jelena Dokic says her father, Damir, physically abused her during their tumultuous relationship earlier in her career.

Dokic, 26, said in an interview with the Fairfax magazine Sport&Style: “I’ve been through a lot worse than anybody on the tour. I can say that with confidence.”

Dokic, who is estranged from her father, told how she fled from her family in 2002 to escape the abuse.

“When you go through stuff like that, playing a tennis match is a pretty easy thing to do. When I win today it’s so much more satisfying,” Dokic was quoted as saying in the article.

The magazine said Damir Dokic hung up on a telephone caller when an attempt was made to ask him about the allegations. Damir Dokic now lives in Belgrade, Serbia.

In January, Dokic continued a career resurgence when she reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after having to rely on a wild card for entry.

Dokic, born in the former Yugoslavia, migrated to Sydney with her family as a child and represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics. She renounced her Australian ties in 2001 to move back to Serbia, then decided to begin competing for Australia again in 2006.

As a 16-year-old qualifier, she beat No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis in the first round at Wimbledon in 1999. She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2000 and her career was on the rise as she collected five WTA singles titles. In 2002, she held the No. 4 ranking.

By 2006, her ranking had fallen to 617. But she won a wild card tournament for entry to her first Grand Slam in three years in 2006, improving to a No. 187 ranking. She was No. 31 in the most recent WTA rankings.

Dokic said she went through years of mental turmoil after packing her bags and fleeing what she called “the situation.”

“There was a period where there was nothing that could make me happy … I wanted somebody’s else’s life,” Dokic said in the magazine article.

She credited her boyfriend, Tin Bikic, for helping her recover. Asked about troubling memories, she said sometimes she thought: “Why me?” But she had only to look around to see other people who were far worse off, she said.

“Whatever has happened, good or bad, will always stay there. It makes you what you are,” Dokic said.

Damir Dokic was ejected from a 1999 tournament in Birmingham, England and later arrested for lying down on a road.

In 2000, he fought with a television crew at the Australian Open, smashed a journalist’s mobile phone at Wimbledon and was thrown out of the U.S. Open after an argument over the price of a piece of cooked fish. He was barred by the Women’s Tennis Association from attending tournaments for six months.

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