Fussing parents pull focus off court

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England - Tennis parents claimed Wimbledon's center stage yesterday and embroiled the women's game in a double-barreled controversy.

Jelena Dokic's father Damir smashed a reporter's mobile phone, cursed President Clinton, and was voluntarily escorted from Wimbledon's grounds by police.


Alexandra Stevenson's mother, Samantha, said she feared her daughter was going to be in a 'Tonya Harding-type incident" earlier this year after run-in with a French player. Meanwhile, Alexandra Stevenson charged that another French player used a racial epithet against her during a May match in Strasbourg, France.

On a day when it was publicly revealed the WTA ban on coaches and parents entering the locker room extended to Wimbledon, parental pyrotechnics were ignited.


The mayhem began in the early afternoon after Dokic, a Yugoslav-born player who lives in Australia, defeated Gala Leon Garcia, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.

After the match, Dokic's father, Damir, got into a confrontation with Sky TV sports reporter Mark Saggers on the terrace of the All England Club's new building for press and players.

Saggers said he sought an interview with Damir Dokic, telling him "You should come and speak to us. We will always speak to you.

"Then, he just exploded," Saggers said. "It was unbelievable."

But it was not exactly unexpected.

Damir Dokic scuffled with a TV cameraman at the Australian Open and last year was removed from a tournament in England for making too much noise.

This time, Damir Dokic asked to use the reporter's mobile phone and then smashed it on to the ground, witnesses said.

"I gave it to him and he picked it up, sort of looked at me and smashed it onto the balcony and also raised his arm at me," Saggers said. "I definitely felt threatened by him."


Damir Dokic yelled at the reporter, "How much money you want for your mobile phone," and then called for his wife, Liliana, to produce an American Express Gold Card.

Police arrived at the scene and Damir Dokic voluntarily left with them, followed by a horde of photographers who overturned plastic tables and chairs. With an English flag draped across his shoulders, Damir Dokic, who was an outspoken critic of NATO's bombing campaign last year against Yugoslavia, was heard cursing Clinton. He also said, "The Queen is for democracy. Everything else in this country is for fascism."

A police spokesman said, "No action was taken and the Dokic family elected to leave the grounds."

A few hours later, Alexandra Stevenson lost to Patricia Wartusch, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3. The player who captivated Wimbledon last year when she advanced to the semifinals and who also saw her life turn into tabloid fodder when it was revealed her father was Julius Erving, talked about a difficult rookie year that included "a lot of hazing going on."

Alexandra Stevenson said she was subjected to racial taunts from one French player, Amelie Cocheteux, while another French player, Anne-Gaelle Sidot, struck her mother at a May tournament in Strasbourg, France.

"I got called a piece of ---- black girl," Stevenson said. She also claimed that at the French Open, Cocheteux "bumped" her in the locker room.


Stevenson's mother, Samantha, said at the Strasbourg tournament there was a squabble with Sidot over practice court time and the dispute escalated. In a cafeteria, the French player gave her a gentle push and pulled her hat down, Samantha Stevenson said.

Samantha Stevenson later said that Sidot's friends were around a practice court and she heard them say, "Let's get her."

Samantha Stevenson said she was unsure if they were talking of her, or her daughter.

"I was just afraid of another Tonya Harding-type incident," Samantha Stevenson said.

Cocheteux denied accusations against her, calling them "purely invented." Sidot could not be reached for comment.

Last night, the WTA Tour said it investigated several of the incidents, although they have received no documentation from the Stevensons. No disciplinary action has been taken against any of the alleged participants, the tour said.


The WTA tour "could not find conclusive evidence" that Cocheteux made the alleged offensive remark, nor could it find any witnesses to substantiate the bumping allegation.

The WTA said it "determined [Sidot] did not physically strike" Samantha Stevenson "but did tip her hat during a conversation regarding use of a practice court." It also noted Sidot's allegation that Samantha Stevenson "used verbally abusive language," and officials "determined that no disciplinary action was warranted," over the incidents.

"There is no place on our Tour for any racial inequities," the statement said. "All specific allegations are investigated fully and appropriate action taken."

In a post-script, it turns out that Alexandra Stevenson and Jelena Dokic teamed in doubles in Hilton Head, S.C., earlier this year.

"We played, and her dad showed up drunk," Alexandra Stevenson said. 'My mom said, 'you're not playing with her again.'"

Feature matches


(Seeds in parentheses) Today's men's singles

Pete Sampras (1) vs. Justin Gimelstob

Andre Agassi (2) vs. Todd Martin, completion of suspended match

Thomas Enqvist (9) vs. Christian Vinck

Today's women's singles

Martina Hingis (1) vs. Silvija Talaja


Venus Williams (5) vs. Nathalie Dechy

Serena Williams (8) vs. Cristina Torrens-Valero

Anke Huber (11) vs. Tina Pisnik