Hantuchova Survives Dellacqua Test
Published January 19, 2009 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - If the downside of success at a tournament one year is the need to defend ranking points the next, the tension that comes with that was all too apparent on Rod Laver Arena during the first night match of the 2009 Australian Open. In the end it would be 2008 semifinalist Daniela Hantuchova who held her nerve the better, squeezing past local heroine Casey Dellacqua in two nail-biting sets, 76(11) 64.
Dellacqua, who reached the fourth round last year with wins over Patty Schnyder and Amélie Mauresmo, started strongly, breaking Hantuchova for a 2-0 lead. But the Slovak No.19 seed leveled proceedings with solid serving and retrieving, and capitalized on her opponent's errors to move ahead 4-3 with a break of her own.
Dellacqua kicked into gear once again, however, making the most of a loose game from Hantuchova to serve for the set at 5-4. Forehand errors helped Hantuchova level at 5-5 - only to relinquish her own serve again on the fourth break point.
Serving for the set for a second time, Dellacqua delivered her first double fault of the match, and sent down another two points later to enable Hantuchova to take the contest to what would become a marathon a tie-break. After exchanging mini-breaks Dellacqua surged ahead 5-3 and arrived at her first set point at 6-5, but Hantuchova saved that with a backhand winner up the line, and fended off a further four set points before clinching the opener on her third opportunity.
The Slovak seemed on course for a straightforward passage through the second set, holding on to an early break to establish a 5-3 lead. By now the 25-year-old was playing a savvy all court game that blended drop shots and lobs with careful maneuvering of Dellacqua from side to side - with the odd ace thrown in for good measure.
Even so, Dellacqua conjured a 0-40 lead when Hantuchova served for the match, but was again let down by her forehand. Hantuchova won through on her third match point.
"I had a lot of opportunities in that match and I didn't consolidate on some of them," admitted Dellacqua, who converted just 27 percent of break points, compared to Hantuchova's 67 percent success rate. "You never know the draw you're going to get but it's tough when you play a seed first up. I love playing out on that court, but obviously Daniela likes playing here also."
"I knew it would be a tough match against an Aussie girl, but it was wonderful to be back out here," said Hantuchova courtside after the match. "I could still feel plenty of support for me and I really appreciated that. In the beginning I was a bit tired but I just kept going and I'm very happy with the win."
Hantuchova will play France's Mathilde Johansson in the second round.