Hantuchova gets the better of Dellacqua

Casey Dellacqua refused to blame her sore shoulder - or the added weight of expectation on it - for her first round exit at the Australian Open on Monday night.

West Australian Dellacqua was unable to repeat her 2008 tournament heroics, beaten in straight sets by Slovakian 19th seed Daniela Hantuchova - a past Open semi-finalist - in just under two hours.

Dellacqua, ranked 57 in the world, had chances to upset a more fancied rival, with five failed first set points costing her dearly in the 7-6 (13-11) 6-4 loss.

But unlike the joy last year when Dellacqua marched unexpectedly to the fourth round, she was left only with the pain of her suspect left shoulder, dulled by pre-match painkillers and a post-match ice pack.

“It’s a bit sore … it’s something I’m going to have to concentrate on doing all the right things with for the rest of my career,” she said.

“But I have to deal with it, I had to get over it and keep playing.

“I felt pretty good leading into the event. I had a nice relaxing day today. The preparation was great.

“I love playing out on that court but it’s tough when you play a seed first-up.

“It didn’t go my way tonight, but I’ve got a lot more tournaments to play this year, and I’ll keep trying to improve.”

Dellacqua used her 2008 Open performance last year to kick-start a breakthrough year.

But despite her defeat this time around at Melbourne Park, the 23-year-old believes she can further improve her ranking, as well as aiding her country’s Fed Cup effort starting with the Asia/Oceania playoffs in her home town Perth from February 4-7.

“Last year was just a stepping stone for me in terms of experience,” Dellacqua said.

“I consistently had great results throughout the year. This year I feel a lot more mature. I feel 2009 can be really successful.”