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Clueless Dokic departs early

JELENA Dokic of Australia lost to Jill Craybas of the United States 4-6, 2-6 in the opening round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, on Wednesday.

In other early first-round matches, Shahar Peer of Israel beat Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-1, Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic overcame Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4 and China's Li Na defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, 6-4, 6-4.

Australian Open quarterfinalist Dokic said she needs a break after six months away from home as she attempts to return to the highest levels of the sport.

Essentially out of tennis in 2007, Dokic played four WTA tournaments last year and won three titles on the ITF circuit. But the campaign was taking its toll. She said she was "having a hard time figuring out what to do on the court right now," and said she may have been mentally beaten before taking the court against Craybas.

"I'm really, really struggling mentally," said Dokic, 26. "I need to just settle down and get myself together again."

Dokic, who also represented Australia in the Fed Cup recently, said she could return for the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami starting on March 25.

Meanwhile, Roger Federer is returning to the ATP Tour after a six-week absence due to back problems, and as has been his habit in recent years, he'll do so without a coach.

Federer, the 13-time grand slam champion, hasn't played on tour since his five-set loss to top-ranked Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open final.

He had been scheduled to play in a tournament in Dubai and in the opening round of Davis Cup. Instead, he took that time off to rest and give Australian Darren Cahill an audition for the job of a coach.

"After I decided not to play those two events I thought it would be a good time for a test," said Federer, a three-time champion of this event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. "He (Cahill) came over to Dubai and we worked a bit and we decided we're not going to do it, so we're moving on."

Federer, who began having serious back problems late last year but kept playing, had to make a decision on whether to play Dubai and the Davis Cup first round against the US.

He said the debate there was "am I going to keep on playing with a little bit of pain and maybe make it really worse, or have a rest and be sure I'm able to play the next six months without a problem?

"It was a tough decision. It's a priority for me to look at the long-term. It's my goal to play for many more years. It was a tough decision. I know I let some people down. I felt after the US Open and the Olympics that the schedule was good enough that I could play Davis Cup so I announced it, then the back problem occurred."

Federer, 27, is the No. 2 seed in this 96-player event and Nadal is No. 1, so the possibility exists for yet another final between the two men whose rivalry has produced some scintillating matches.


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