Dellacqua Wins Aussie WC
Published December 21, 2009 08:46
MELBOURNE, Australia - She wasn't sure she'd be fit to compete until days before the event, but the comeback hopes of Casey Dellacqua were given a major boost on Sunday when the 24-year-old won Tennis Australia's 2010 Australian Open wildcard play-off. In the final Dellacqua, who missed most of the 2009 season after left shoulder surgery, retrieved a 61 52 deficit to beat up-and-coming Olivia Rogowska, 16 76(9) 63.
The wildcard play-offs began with a round robin format, feeding into quarterfinals. The all-Australian field also included former top tenner Alicia Molik, who has been mopping up ITF Women's Circuit events around the country since launching her own comeback in September, but fell in the play-off quarters.
For her part Dellacqua had beaten 18-year-old Rogowska handily in the round robin, but in the final she initially struggled to counter the top seed's tactical play. However with the end in sight world No.146 Rogowska tightened, squandering three match points in the second set tie-break.
"Once I got to that second set, I thought, 'I'm not going to stay out this long to lose,'" Dellacqua said. "I'm just so excited to know that I've earned my spot back in the Australian Open - with such great memories here, it's just exciting to be back playing."
Last month Dellacqua partnered Molik to reach the semis of the doubles at an ITF event in Western Australia, but the lefty's plan to also play singles was scuppered by a foot injury. Heading into the play-offs she hadn't played a singles match since her first round loss to Francesca Schiavone at Dubai in February, so the week's six wins serve as a crucial workout ahead of the Tour's January swing Down Under.
Dellacqua can expect plenty of support next month. At the 2008 Australian Open she captivated fans when, as a relative unknown, she stormed her way to the fourth round with wins over seeded players Patty Schnyder and Amélie Mauresmo. Other strong results followed, and in July that year she reached No.39 in the rankings. But a few weeks after falling to Daniela Hantuchova in the first round of the 2009 Australian Open, Dellacqua went under the surgeon's knife.
Although her recuperation took longer than hoped, the months of grueling training have clearly paid off.
Her real ranking languishing around the thousand mark, Dellacqua could have relied on her protected ranking of No.82, valid for one Slam and eight other Tour events during the first 12 months of her return. Winning the wildcard play-off means she keeps all those aces up her sleeve.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back into that high level and to keep improving my tennis, and this week's just been a great start for me," said Dellacqua, who was runner-up with Schiavone in the doubles at Roland Garros in 2008. "I know what it takes to compete against that calibre of girls. I still need to improve a lot of things."