Casey flies into the second round

Australian Casey Dellacqua returned to the winners’ circle with a 6-2 3-6 6-4 win over Anastasiya Yakimova at the Australian Open on Tuesday in front of a capacity crowd at Margaret Court Arena.

It was a very different Casey Dellacqua who was knocked out in the first round by 19th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena crowd here last year.

It was the beginning of a tough 2009 that saw the Australian go under the knife not long after for a full shoulder reconstruction.

Luckily, the Carlton Football Club fanatic was in good hands – her surgeon was the same person who rebuilt Carlton captain Chris Judd’s shoulder – and going by the way Dellacqua pounded some balls today, her recovery is on track.
“I had a long year out of game … this is what I love to do.  It’s great to be back out there.  [and] to get a win today was good,” Dellacqua said after the match.

“I obviously knew I wanted to get back. Every day was about rehabbing my shoulder, about doing everything that I possibly could. I was flying down to Melbourne to do my physio every 10 days, a couple weeks to progress my exercise,” she explained.

Dellacqua won her way into Australian Open 2010 via the Australian Open Play-off in December and it appears the time she spent here last month helped her to settle before her opponent today.

The West Australian started strongly and looked right at home under the blue sky as she broke 106th-ranked Yakimova and raced to a 3-1 lead. The undisciplined Yakimova served five double faults in the opening set, which didn’t help her cause.

Lefty Dellacqua hit some blistering off-forehand winners to crush her opponent’s confidence as she struggled to stay in the opening set, which the Australian won 6-2 with little fanfare.

But in the second set, Yakimova fought back. The Belarus native broke Dellacqua in the seventh game of the second set to take a decisive 4-3 lead.

Yakimova broke Dellacqua again in the ninth game to claim the set. Dellacqua managed to save two set points with solid first serves, but it was third time lucky for Yakimova when Dellacqua netted a forehand to relinquish the second set 6-3.

Spurred on by a boisterous home crowd, Dellacqua took the ascendancy by breaking Yakimova in the opening game of the deciding set.

The Australian took charge as she opened up a commanding 4-1 lead before the pair traded breaks for the next three games.

Serving for the match at 5-3, Dellacqua had three match points but Yakimova was a brick wall as she repelled each of the Australian’s attempts to end the match.

Dellacqua finally got the win she so desperately craved when she served out the final set 6-4 much to the delight of the local crowd.

“To have another win at a Grand Slam in Melbourne, it was great.  Margaret Court Arena, it’s one of my favourite courts.  The crowd was fantastic, and I was really pumped and nervous.

“I missed all the emotions when you’re out of the game.  It was nice to have all those feelings back again.”

Now that she’s back on the winners’ list, her goal is to downsize her current ranking of No.980 and finetune her game.

“My initial goal is just to really get back into the top 100, so that hopefully maybe by the French Open I’m back in the Grand Slams off my own ranking.

“I’ve still got a long way to go with my game to get where I want to get to … [I’m] trying to improve all the things that I did do well, but just try and make them better over the next few years.”

Dellacqua will face Croatia’s Karolina Sprem in the second round. The Croatian world No.92 upset 25th-seeded Spaniard Annabel Medina Garrigues in the first round 6-3 6-2.