Jelena Dokic has little expectation as she begins another attempt at tennis career resurrection at Melbourne Park this week.
Five years since she lit up hearts with a wildcard run to the Australian Open quarter-finals, 30-year-old Dokic will play her first tournament match in almost two years on Tuesday and is just happy to take to the court.
She’ll face fellow comeback player Jarmila Gajdosova in the first round of the Australian Open wildcard playoffs, convened to give Australians outside the automatic qualification a route to the gram slam tournament.
“I don’t really care as much whether I win, whether I lose, I just want to play to be out there and have that feeling again,” said Dokic after Sunday’s draw.
A former world No.4 who is currently unranked, Dokic said at her lowest moments she felt retired and that she would never play again as she endured nearly two full seasons out with a wrist injury.
“I’ve had a horrible two years. It’s been so bad.
“Going from doctor to doctor… I’m at a stage where I’m just happy to play in my first competitive match.”
While admitting she’s still six months away from full fitness, Dokic will contest the wildcard play-offs because “you’ve got to start somewhere”.
“For sure there will be a lot of bad matches and bad tournaments and I’m prepared for that,” she said.
Dokic’s opponent Gajdosova, is herself attempting a career reboot.
After beginning 2013 in decent form, including a mixed doubles title at the Australian Open with Matthew Ebden, Gajdosova was diagnosed with mononucleosis – otherwise known as glandular fever – following fainting and black-outs.
“I was very much a party person, slept the whole weekend to Monday morning. It was pretty fun for four months,” said Gajdosova laconically.
Gajdosova’s six-month layoff ended in October with a strong run to the semi-finals in Nanjing, China.
A shoulder injury from that tournament means Gajdosova is again putting her body on trial as she builds back to full strength.
Dokic and Gajdosova’s match is the highlight of the first round, though neither expects the match to feature on their highlights reel.
“It’s kind of funny actually, kind of ironic both of us haven’t played,” said Gajdosova.
“It’s going to be who can put a ball in the court more often.”
The 16-strong women’s play-off, headed by top seed Casey Dellacqua, begins on Tuesday, with Anastasia Rodionova as second seed and Bernard Tomic’s teenage sister Sara also in the field.
The 16-player men’s field starts on Monday with Queensland’s John-Patrick Smith as top seed and Matt Reid as second seed, but without youngster Nick Kyrgios who withdrew with an elbow complaint.
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