SYDNEY (AFP) — Former World No. 4 Jelena Dokic says she is aiming to return to the top 50 next year and believes her climb back can begin with Australian Open qualification, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The career of Dokic, who climbed to a career-high ranking of world No.4 in 2002 and was a Wimbledon semi-finalist, has been in freefall but she is back in hard training in Melbourne.
"I needed some time away from the game to sort through some personal issues but now I'm back and very focused," Dokic told the Sun-Herald newspaper.
"I've been working very hard in training and I'm hopeful that things turn out well."
Dokic's tennis career has been beset with family issues but she is confident the worst is behind her.
"I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the Australian public and fans," said Dokic, who spent her younger years in Australia after emigrating from her native Serbia with her family.
The 24-year-old has no rankings points and an arbitrary computer ranking of 9999 after her sabbatical.
She has earned almost 3.8 million USD in prize money but did little to add to that tally this season, pocketing a meagre 123 USD from a single Futures Tour appearance.
However, she believes her climb back to the top can begin with Australian Open qualification and has taken the first step by requesting a spot in the wildcard play-off.
The winner of the play-offs is awarded a main draw wildcard into the Australian Open.
"I'd love to play in the Australian Open again," Dokic said. "I want to play as many tournaments as I can.
"I'd like to think that by the end of 2008 I could be somewhere in the top 50. I know that's something I can do."
Now based in Melbourne, Dokic has begun a gruelling practice regime. She has been on court for up to four hours a day, six days a week at Melbourne Park.
She is hoping to play in one of the Australian Open lead-up events, the Australian Women's Hardcourts on the Gold Coast or the Hobart International.
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