Originally created 08/30/98

Croatian teen star accuses father of abuse



ZAGREB, Croatia -- Teen-age tennis star Mirjana Lucic has fled her native Croatia after accusing her father of being abusive.

"Beatings ... there have been more of them than anyone can imagine," the 16-year-old Lucic told a Zagreb newspaper, Slobodna Dalmacija. "Sometimes it was because of the lost game, in other cases for the lost set or badly played trainings. I don't want to even say what happened after the matches I lost."

Marinko Lucic, who also was his daughter's coach and adviser, denied the accusations that he mistreated her because of tennis.

"If I slammed her, that was because she didn't behave nicely, never because of tennis," Marinko Lucic wrote to the newspaper Vecenji List.

The player said she fled with her mother and four brothers and sisters to the United States with the help of a U.S. senator whom she did not identify. She is attending Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Last week, a spokesman for the Corel WTA Tour said Lucic had moved to Florida.

There had been rumors that Lucic's father was too rigid and that the two have not gotten along ever since Lucic rocketed to fame by winning her first pro tournament in Bol, Croatia, last year. She also was a finalist in three other tournaments in 1997.

This year, she did not appear at the tour event in Bol in southern Croatia.

In the Slobodna Dalmacija article that appeared last week, Lucic charged that her father's violence was behind her poor performances this year. She is currently ranked 50th in the world after suffering a series of first-round losses.

"I had huge problems ... the things I had to endure," she said.

"When I was beaten in Wimbledon, and when father attacked my mother, I decided to move, to get out of his shadow and start a new life."

Lucic will be competing in the U.S. Open this week. Her first-round opponent is Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands. She could possible play eighth-seeded Steffi Graf in the third round.

"For the first time in 12 years, I enjoyed training," she said of her move. "Previously, I was nervous, I could not bear all that.

"I decided to finally start to live; everything was denied before. Now I go to bed in peace and I wake up calm.

"May this U.S. Open be my new beginning," she said, adding: "I am so eager to get onto the court and start playing again."