Melbourne Park, 15 December 2010 | Darren Saligari
Jelena Dokic has overcome difficult conditions and a last-minute change of opponent to continue her quest for a wildcard into Australian Open 2011.
The drama began early on Tuesday when Dokic, who had been scheduled to play 14-year-old Ashleigh Barty in their second round-robin match, was informed that her scheduled opponent had pulled out of their centre court match citing a back complaint.
Photos: AO Play-off
Stepping into the breach was 16-year-old West Australian Nina Catovic who was happy to fill the underdog shoes against obvious favourite Dokic who prevailed in straight sets, 6-3 6-2.
The change took Dokic by surprise, but there was little time for nerves.
“It was a last-minute change – I thought I was playing somebody else,” said Dokic. “It’s tough because I don’t know any of those younger girls. But she can hit the ball quite well, so always when someone can hit the ball hard and flat it’s dangerous, especially in these conditions.”
Early on Dokic proved why she was the favourite in the fourth game when she grabbed a break with a confident overhead smash to open up a 3-1 lead from which Catovic wouldn’t recover.
With the wind gusting through Melbourne Park, the former world No.4 seemed keen to keep the match short as she relentlessly attacked the lines, a strategy that delivered its share of winners and unforced errors.
“The conditions were tough, it was quite windy and it swirls around, so I’m quite happy to get through,” said Dokic.
“I feel like I’m playing much better than any other time that I was here during the play-off, so I feel like I’m in much better shape.”
Clearly on the back foot, Catovic saved three set points in the eighth game as she scrambled to stay in the set. An ill-advised attempted drop shot, however, gave Catovic a game point, which she converted as a Dokic forehand flew long, much to Dokic’s frustration.
Her frustration was somewhat sated when she held serve to clinch the set the following game.
Catovic’s cause looked to be sliding downhill rapidly as she was broken in the opening game of the second set. The Dokic forehand was proving the difference as she overpowered her 16-year-old opponent
But a rare break for Catovic in the next game put the set back on equal footing. More backhand errors from Dokic allowed Catovic to get a foothold in the second set as she held for a 2-1 lead.
During her next service game, Dokic complained to the umpire that Catovic was taking too long between points – the umpire showed no sympathy countering that Dokic was moving quickly between points. Despite the difference of opinion Dokic managed to put it behind her and held serve.
The Dokic backhand almost cost the No.3 seed another break as she tossed away two break point opportunities with consecutive backhand errors. But with her forehand still firing, Dokic secured the break to jump ahead 3-2.
Dokic reeled off the next three games to take the set and top spot in the Magenta group with one more round-robin match to play on Wednesday versus Tammi Patterson who lost earlier today to teenager Viktorija Rajicic.
Rajicic bounced back from a clinical 6-2 6-2 loss to Dokic on the opening day to defeat sixth seed Patterson.
After the match Rajicic said she found the windy conditions difficult to play in.
“It was hard conditions out here, a bit rainy but the wind was there and [you] just had to play with the wind,” said Rajicic.
In other matches today, Sam Groth fought back from a 5-2 deficit in the opening set of his match with Dane Propoggia to win 7-6 6-3; James Lemke took three sets to overcome Jared Easton 6-4 6-7 6-2; Olivia Rogowska breezed through her match with Azra Hadzic 6-1 6-3 and Matt Ebden survived a spirited challenge from young gun Ben Mitchell, winning 7-6 7-6.
A number of matches are still in progress at Melbourne Park due to a rain delay earlier today.
Live streaming of centre court matches will continue tomorrow on tennis.com.au from 9:45 am.