Casey Dellacqua traumatic year - Article
Casey Dellacqua's traumatic year is finishing on a high, writes Jessica Halloran.
THERE were a few times Casey Dellacqua was reduced to tears this year. The first tears fell when the critics ripped into her voluptuous body after a first-round defeat on centre court at the Australian Open last summer.
Dellacqua's soft arms and stocky torso caused one detractor to publicly observe her as "slow and overweight". Fellow Australian player Nicole Pratt also noted that her fitness levels needed to be increased.
Dellacqua's dreams of making the women's top 10? "Someone tell her she's dreaming," wrote one columnist.
This week, when reminded of the criticism last January, 21-year-old Dellacqua shrugged it off, but those close to her say the cutting words upset her, like they would any young woman.
Since the summer Dellacqua has been working on her fitness. However, she noted this week that she still can't afford to have a personal fitness trainer, let alone a coach, tour with her. Dellacqua said she's not as fit as she could be, and dreams of having assistance with her fitness.
"The hardest thing is being by myself," she said. "This whole year I've travelled by myself again. I haven't had any support. It's been really tough. I haven't had the financial resources to have someone with me. I still don't think I'm as fit as I could be, but it's something I'm working on."
"But what I've been doing has been working because I'm getting some good results now. I've been beating players of a bit of a higher calibre … so, I'm doing the best I can."
Sometimes she has good weeks when she eats all the right foods, pumps it at the gym and trains perfectly. "But sometimes I have bad weeks," she said. "Like any average person would."
But the hardest moment in her career, a moment that prefaced another emotional time, came last winter, and it had nothing to do with tennis. It was when her mother, Nita, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"That was the worst bit, sometimes you just don't want to be away playing tennis," said Dellacqua. "You just want to be at home with your mum."
Her mum was diagnosed - and told she needed surgery and chemotherapy - two days before Dellacqua was due to leave for the US Open. "I was just really shocked by it all," Dellacqua said.
But trips home to Perth, watching her mum endure chemotherapy with determination, inspired Dellacqua. Now her mum's courage and words have motivated her still further.
At times Dellacqua considered putting down the racquet and returning home. But Nita insisted she keep playing. "I've been really happy with the way I've been able to get on court and get on with things and play my matches,"
Dellacqua said. "I know that's what everyone at home wants me to do."
After watching and hearing her teary daughter over the phone at her lowest points, Nita would tell Casey to stay strong. "Keep going," Nita said. "Hang in there, I believe in you and you can do it, it's going to take time but you can do it."
It has taken time but Dellacqua has survived the season, her fitness has improved gradually and the second half of her year has been triumphant. She finished at a career-high No.155. After finishing as the best performing female on the Kia Pro circuit, Dellacqua this week was awarded a wildcard to the Australian Open. "Just seeing someone go through something like that, it really puts things into perspective," Dellacqua said of her mother's battle. "She's just been amazing and so positive."
The Dellacqua women have been there for each other in the tough times. "When she's a bit teary I've said, 'C'mon, Mum, you've got to get on with things'," Dellacqua said.
"For both of us it's been an experience that's definitely brought us a lot closer."
It will be Dellacqua's fifth Australian Open. "I've never got past the first round," Dellacqua said. "It's kind of always hanging over my head. Hopefully I get a fairly decent draw so I can give it a real crack."
She will certainly be hoping the draw is kinder than this year's, when she faced Lindsay Davenport and lost 6-2, 6-1. But this summer will nevertheless bring a great experience after a tumultuous few months - she's looking forward to her mother being courtside in Melbourne. Nita will finish radiation therapy on December 14.
"She knew at the beginning of the year how much I was struggling," Dellacqua said. "I was finding it hard to get motivated … She knew that this was kind of it for me. It was a year to really give it a crack. My goal at the end of the year was to finish at 150 in the world and I nearly have."
"She's really proud that I've done that but she's really stoked to be able to go over to the Australian Open."