Melbourne, Australia, 22 January 2013 | James Hunter-Smith

While Australian tennis favourite Casey Dellacqua is doing great things on the court at Australian Open 2013, she’s doing even greater things off it.

The 27-year-old put down her racquet on Tuesday to launch the ‘65km for Cystic Fibrosis’ walk, a major fundraising event that raises money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a life-shortening inherited disease.

The cause is particularly pertinent to Dellacqua as her cousin, Kaila Thomas, was born with CF and underwent a double lung transplant only five months ago.

While Thomas is still on her road to recovery, she is currently in Melbourne supporting Dellacqua in her Grand Slam doubles campaign.

“It’s huge. For me tennis is my job, tennis is my business and it’s my life, but in the end everything that matters is family and friends,” Dellacqua said.

“Kaila and I are the same age, our mums are sisters and we grew up doing everything together. She was born with CF so we know exactly what’s involved with it and how it affects everyone.

“The fact she’s here today, watching me in the quarterfinals of doubles, it’s actually quite amazing. She hasn’t been able to leave Perth for three years.”

The fundraising walk will be held in Royal Park and Princes Park in Melbourne on Saturday 2 March. Participants can enter as individuals or in a team, with all proceeds going towards CF research at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Thomas had been waiting over two years for a lung donor and in late August 2012, her prayers were finally answered. Thrilled with the news she immediately texted Dellacqua, who was on court at the time against Li Na in the second round of the US Open.

Following the match, the 27-year-old flew straight home to Perth to be by Thomas’ side.

Thomas, who is pleased with the progress of her own recovery, said she was overwhelmed with the level of support she’s received from Dellacqua.

“I’m so thankful to (Casey) because as she said, the donor rates in Australia are so low so to have someone who is able to boost the profile helps so much,” she said.

“(Personally) I’m really well, I can’t believe it. It wasn’t even five months ago and I couldn’t even really walk 100m, I couldn’t laugh without coughing, and now I’m in Melbourne watching Casey, cheering for her, and I’m just so grateful.”

Dellacqua plays her Australian Open 2013 quarterfinals doubles match with fellow countrywoman Ashleigh Barty later on Tuesday evening against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova.

The pair – who won an ITF event together in Japan last November – are in sound form after toppling third-seeded duo Maria Kirilenko and Lisa Raymond in the second round.

“We played great yesterday, we’ve played great all week and there’s no reason why we can’t win today. I’m stoked to be teaming up with (Barty), she’s a great girl and we have a lot of fun together,” Dellacqua said.

“I’ve played with so many partners in my career and it’s rare to find people that you just click with. With Ash, we have a really good friendship and I think that stems from us both liking to have a laugh and a bit of fun on the court.

“I take so much youthfulness from Ashleigh being 16 and I’m 27, so she makes me feel young again.”

For more information on the ‘65km for Cystic Fibrosis’ walk, visit