It all started so well. Three rounds, three highly rated difficult opponents, three wins.
Fourth round at the Australian Open. First set, another win. She was up a set (7-6) and coasting to being the first Australian woman since Jelena Dokic – remember her? – in 2009 to make the quarters here.
It was all going so well, which is not to say she was playing especially well but she was winning. Dellacqua was playing Eugenie Bouchard, a younger woman, at 19 barely more than a girl, but a player seeded 30 with an asterisk that says lookout she won’t be ranked 31 in the world for long.
Dellacqua was about her game more rapidly than Bouchard who was not overwhelmed – despite the urgings of the crowd for the local player - but a little generous in her returns and searching in her shots. She did not yet look comfortable as a player befitting her rank and expectations.
Dellacqua was not playing as well as she had in her first three round wins over women who had all been to a grand slam semi-final or better - Vera Zvonareva, Kirsten Flipkens and Zheng Jie - but she broke the young Canadian in the third game before being unable to resist giving the break back again. The set went to a tie-break. Casey won it. All still going well.
Maybe that first set was always going to be a little tight and tentative for both players meeting each other on court for the first time. And maybe the more mature, experienced player should be the one to get a quicker handle on her opponent. Naturally the fact one player was in front of a home crowd might have had a little to do with it.
She lost the first set but Bouchard looked more relaxed in the second. She attacked her game, opened her shoulders, got bigger on her serve and Dellacqua was quickly broken. Then broken again. Shortly after she had lost the second set. 6-2.
Bouchard had lifted her tempo and altered the rhythm of the game. It was now played on her terms. A classic modern counter-puncher who ferrets out each ball Bouchard looked stronger and stronger and Dellacqua diminishing as the game wore. Dellacqua’s unforced errors mounted.
Bouchard had the Australian left-hander paddling to keep her head above water. The third set was over almost before it began (6-0) and Dellacqua’s dream open was over.
“I'm disappointed to have an opportunity and not to win. But probably the better player won tonight,” she said.
Dallacqua was gracious of her opponent but also respectful of her own performance given the ground she has recovered in the last three months.
After injury, time out of the game and the birth of her child her ranking was a bloated 180 and her coach raised the prospect of abandoning singles and becoming a doubles only player.
“We had all those conversations. And my answers were always, ‘Yeah, I want to do it (singles), yeah, I want to work hard’. Now only three months later, I'll be back inside 100. I'm not sure exactly what my ranking will go to but I'm back to kind of where I wanted to be, probably sooner than I thought. I was in the fourth round of the Australian Open,” she said.
“So in terms of like putting it in perspective of where I'm at and where I want to be, I'm definitely, you know, feeling really good with where my game's at.
Bouchard now plays Ana Ivanovic the woman who created the upset of the open when she defeated Serena Williams.
Bouchard defeated Ivanovic in the second round at Wimbledon last year but when you have just beaten the best player in the world that sort of history is just a footnote.