Jelena Dokic and Aryna Sabalenka have melted hearts at the Australian Open with a brilliant gesture after the first women's semi-final on Thursday night. Sabalenka beat Coco Gauff 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to progress to Saturday night's final, where she will face Chinese player Zheng Qinwen.
Speaking to Dokic on court after the win, Sabalenka shared another wonderful post-match interview with the Aussie great. Dokic asked Sabalenka what it was like being able to play in front of female pioneers Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Billie Jean King, after the former had earlier been honoured on the 50th anniversary of her first Australian Open title in 1974.
“I couldn’t dream of playing in front of you guys," said the World No.2 from Belarus. "Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for our sport. It’s a privilege.”
In Dokic's final question, she asked Sabalenka if she would sign one of her match-used towels so Dokic could auction it off, stating that the proceeds would go towards victims of domestic abuse. Dokic had managed to snare a towel from Sabalenka the last time she interviewed her, but this time she made sure to get it autographed.
"After you won your last match, I asked you...You gave me a towel, they're precious, everyone wants one," Dokic said. "I said you're winning so much, you probably have about 20 in your hotel room. You gave me one, which you were so kind to give me.
"What I want to get you to do, if you're OK with it, can you sign it, because then we will auction it off for kids and women affected by domestic violence. Is that OK?"
A beautiful gesture from Aryna Sabalenka and Jelena Dokic ❤️
↳ Australian Open. Now Streaming. Every Match. Ad-free. Live & On Demand. Centre Court in 4K UHD.#StanSportAU #AO2024 #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/n1IxEaqUbp
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) January 25, 2024
Sabalenka didn't hesitate and immediately brought back one of her Australian Open towels. Dokic said: "That's why we love you. You are such a fierce competitor on the court. [But] I don't think that people know just how kind and compassionate and giving you are. Thank you. Thank you for what you do for women's sport as well. "
Fans were completely taken by the wonderful scenes between Dokic and Sabalenka. Their post-match interview was a big talking point on social media afterwards.
Aryna Sabalenka signed the two towels for Jelena Dokic to auction them off for the kids that are suffering from domestic violence, what a great initiative. Amazing to see, no one deserves to go through it #AusOpen #AusOpen2024 pic.twitter.com/Ag3IyHZiYz
— JAKE FLAGPIES23 🏆🖤🤍 (@IncrediblyBozza) January 25, 2024
Jelena Dokic just won the Australian Open without even entering. What a beautiful moment asking Sabalenka on this stage to support Domestic Violence charity by auctioning her towel. Public, powerful and a big middle finger up to the #AusOpen
— Jordan Holt (@JordanHolt23) January 25, 2024
— GabbyLamby (@gabby_lamb2069_) January 25, 2024
That’s why we love YOU Jelena!
— JILL TROTTER (@byebyekenso) January 25, 2024
Jelena is so lovable
— Barbara Flowers (@BarbaraHFlowers) January 25, 2024
When a winner becomes a champion and role model. Well done #Sabalenka !
— Claudio Carioca (@claudio_carioca) January 25, 2024
— Sanguine (@SagarikaRamana) January 25, 2024
Good heart both Sabalenka & Dokic❤️🙏
— Aruna Dahal C Bernier (@TennisBuddYs) January 25, 2024
Jelena Dokic's harrowing battle with domestic violence
Dokic's battle with abuse has been well documented. Last year the 40-year-old recounted some of the horrible treatment she received at the hands of estranged father and former coach Damir.
“Swollen, bruised and bleeding shins from being beaten and kicked all night with sharp shoes right into my shins for losing a match,” she wrote on social media. “These images were taken more than two weeks later and I was still heavily bruised. I was 17 years old.
“To this day I still have sensitive and bumpy shins from this beating. From every wound there is a scar and these are mine. I have survived but not everyone woman and girl has or will. And that’s the sad reality.”
Dokic rose to World No.4 in 1999, but just two years later she was back in Serbia and her career was basically over. She previously revealed how she was punched, whipped and even spat on as punishment by her father Damir.
"I was never hit or abused by my father until that very first day when I started playing tennis,” she said in 2017. "It got worse and worse and it spiralled out of control when we came to Australia when I was 11. In the end he kind of ruined my career and in a way really shorted it.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.
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