Jelena Dokic can pinpoint the happiest moment of her life without blinking.
Surprisingly, it isn't either of her greatest tennis triumphs, knocking world number one Martina Hingis out of Wimbledon in the first round in 1999 or reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2002, which catapulted her to number four in the world.
"It was November 13, 2017," she says bluntly, of an off-court moment little more than a year ago, the day her gut-wrenching memoir Unbreakable hit book stands around the world.
"Writing the book is by far my greatest achievement because it has totally turned my life around. It has changed everything," she says.
On that day, the world learned of the horrific abuse the former tennis champion suffered at the hands of her father, Damir Dokic.
From the time she was six, he regularly kicked his daughter, pulled her hair, whipped her with a leather belt and called her a sl-- and a wh---.
Throughout her career, many had concerns about her father's erratic, often alcohol- fuelled public behaviour, but no one knew of the horrific violence unfolding behind closed doors.
The abuse overshadowed the talented junior's tennis career, pushing Jelena to breaking point. On court she put on a brave face, her familiar blue eyes characteristically determined to win every match.
However, off court, she battled crippling depression and contemplated suicide.
Now Jelena, who is one of the stars of the Nine Network's Australian Open commentary team, says life has finally come full circle.
"Writing the book was cathartic. It was very emotional and I was mentally drained afterwards, but at the end of the process I felt a huge sense of release – getting it all out of my system – it was very healing for me, and I am now 100 per cent again."
Today, Damir lives in Croatia where he manufactures brandy. Unsurprisingly, Jelena says she has no relationship with him at all. Over the years, she has tried to reconcile but her father steadfastly refuses to apologise for his behaviour.
"I always hold out hope that he will change and that things can be different, especially with family, but there has to be compromise which he isn't willing to do," she admits.
"It's hurtful to me that he's never been able to say sorry. As I get older and as I get closer, hopefully, to having my own family, I don't have the space and time for people like that in my life. I've turned that page. I sleep well at night. I reached out to him and tried to make things better but he didn't want that and that's on him now."
Jelena sees and speaks to her mother Liliana occasionally but says there are lingering mixed feelings because her mother was by her father's side during every unconscionable beating.
"I understand that she wanted to keep the family together no matter what, and I've been able to move forward and have a relationship with her, but it's the relationship with my brother that is the most important to me," she says.
"When I left home, I didn't get to speak to him for a long period of time – my father put a stop to that – so it's nice to get back together and to be able to be our own people as adults, which we are and that relationship is incredibly important to me."
Since the book's release, Jelena has travelled the world raising awareness of domestic abuse and each time she shares her story, she stands a little taller. Her focus is on empowering women to leave violent situations and the message is loud and clear: help is available.
"A woman came up to me at an event and told me how her husband had beaten her so badly he put her into intensive care. Many stories like that have absolutely touched my heart and I'm grateful that women feel they can speak to me. I've cried with many women sharing their stories but it feels good that they feel they can share, and if I can help them in any way, I will.
"The whole message of my book is that you are not alone, and if you see something, say something."
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) the national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line.
For the full story with Jelena Dokic, pick up a copy of the January issue of The Australian Women's Weekly. On sale December 27, 2018.
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