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U.S. OPEN NOTES

Dokic's Dad Banned From Tournament

August 31, 2000|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — In a bizarre incident that began as a dispute over a $10 piece of salmon, the father of Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic was banned Wednesday from the U.S. Open.

With his tearful daughter in tow, a screaming Damir Dokic was forcibly removed from the grounds after directing an obscenity-filled, lunch-hour tirade at a food-service worker in the players' lounge at the National Tennis Center.

"He was calling me a cow," said Mattie Jones, 32, of Elmhurst, N.Y., who said the senior Dokic had also verbally abused her Monday and Tuesday. "I'm not going to be disrespected, and I'm not going to tolerate it. So I called my manager."

Jones said the incident started when she served Dokic a piece of salmon and he objected to the price and size of the portion.

It continued with Pete Pistone, the tournament's head of security, who escorted Dokic downstairs and into the parking lot, where Dokic, threatened with arrest, raised his arms and shouted obscenities as Pistone pushed him off the grounds in front of reporters, television camera crews and other players, among them Andre Agassi.

Arm in arm, father and daughter walked away, only to return minutes later. This time, they were driven away in a U.S. Open vehicle, with Damir Dokic sticking his arm out the passenger window and making a hand gesture.

His daughter, 17, sat silently in the back seat. Dokic, born in Belgrade and now living in Australia, is scheduled to play Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands in a second-round match today.

"He was fairly well lit," Pistone said of the father, making a motion with his right hand to indicate that Dokic had been drinking.

It was the latest embarrassing incident involving Damir Dokic, who this year attacked a cameraman at the Australian Open and was escorted off the grounds by police at Wimbledon after what appeared to be a drunken incident in which he paraded around carrying a flag, made wild pronouncements on a variety of topics and smashed a reporter's cellular phone.

Last year, he was arrested in Birmingham, England, after lying down in traffic outside the tennis stadium, ranting about NATO.

The WTA tour, which urged the senior Dokic's ban from Wimbledon and supported Wednesday's action by U.S. Open tournament director Jay Snyder, announced that it has begun a formal review and will announce shortly after the U.S. Open if additional action will be taken against Damir Dokic.

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Agassi, who revealed in a television interview this week that he has been preoccupied because both his mother and a sister are battling breast cancer, declined further comment after a practice session.

Brad Gilbert, Agassi's coach, indicated that Agassi was surprised Monday night when Mary Carillo of CBS asked about the situation. Agassi told her about his younger sister, Tammee, and his mother, Betty, saying his mother had been diagnosed only a month ago.

"She shouldn't have done that," Gilbert said of Carillo. "I think the reporting here should be about the tennis, not about his personal life. . . .

"Anybody that's going through personal tragedies with their family likes to keep it to themselves. I find it just generally rude to have people ask him about it."

Carillo, reached in her hotel room Wednesday night, said she had known for several weeks about Agassi's situation. She said she asked Agassi before they went on the air if she could ask about it, and Agassi gave his OK.

"I didn't mean to cause a sensation," Carillo said, "but it's obviously going to be a very big part of his U.S. Open."

Agassi's oldest sister, Rita, told the Las Vegas Sun that their mother was released from a Las Vegas hospital Wednesday after being treated for a blood clot unrelated to her breast cancer.

"She's OK," Rita told the newspaper. "She's going to be fine."

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