Melbourne Park, 16 January 2012 | AAP
Casey Dellacqua can’t remember when she last played someone with the pedigree of world No.3 Victoria Azarenka.
And after spending so much time in recent years on the sidelines, the popular Australian can’t wait to give it her best shot.
Dellacqua set up the dream second-round clash with Azarenka by downing Serb Bojana Jovanovski 6-3 6-2 in the opening round of the Australian Open on Monday.
It was her first victory in a grand slam tournament since early 2010 and came after she had spent much of the past three years recovering from shoulder and foot surgery.
The enforced break gave Dellacqua time to engage in other interests such as TV commentary and beauty therapy.
“But I was still watching a lot of tennis. I watched everything I possibly could,” she said.
“I was in touch with everything that was going on but always with the frame of mind that I would get back.
“But I would get back when I was ready, when I felt like the time was right.”
Dellacqua’s best grand slam campaign came at Melbourne Park when she rode a wave of emotion to the last 16 in 2008, the same year she reached a career-high ranking of 39.
Azarenka arrived in Melbourne in imposing form, having won last week’s Sydney International.
She rattled off 12 straight games in a thumping 6-1 6-0 victory over Britain’s Heather Watson on Monday.
“She’s playing amazing tennis,” said Dellacqua.
“I’m going to have to go out there and do what I do well.
“Obviously I know it’s going to be a tough ask.
“I’ll just be playing free tennis and see what happens.”
That gameplan proved good enough on Monday to snap a two-match losing streak against Jovanovski, the victim of a car crash last week in Sydney.
The Serb and TV commentator Allan Stone were travelling to the Sydney International in a courtesy car which was hit by another vehicle which ran a red light.
Jovanovski was uninjured but the driver of the other car was hospitalised in a serious condition.
“I was in the passenger seat and could see the other car coming, but the player was talking to her coach and didn’t see it coming,” said Stone.
“So she went pale and was in shock.”