Rocked by the side-effects of a sickening on-court concussion, Australian tennis stalwart Casey Dellacqua has staved off retirement thoughts to go out with a bang of her own making.
Dellacqua has revealed unfinished business is on her mind – largely in the form of a women’s doubles grand slam title – as she makes her competitive return to the game at the Brisbane International.
The popular 31-year-old West Australian will rekindle her successful partnership with comeback kid Ash Barty in the doubles at Pat Rafter Arena after both were forced to face their mental demons.
For rising talent Barty, it was a battle with depression which saw her briefly switch sports to cricket.
For “big sister” Dellacqua, it was anxiety following the symptoms of her concussion at the Beijing Open in October 2015.
The Fed Cup regular, ranked as high as world No.26 in 2014, played just one WTA singles match in 2016 as she struggled to cope with the concussion side-effects.
“I couldn’t get out of the house and things were quite overwhelming for me,” she said on Friday.
“My doctor said it’s OK, it’s all normal and it’s just your brain rebooting … but it was quite scary to feel things you have never experienced before.”
Dellacqua, who won a mixed doubles crown at the French Open in 2011, has made a string of grand slam finals in women’s doubles but has never got to hold a trophy aloft.
She admits that, and enjoying the game again, is driving her rather than any immediate dream of playing singles again.
“I’m 31 now and there were definitely thoughts of retiring that popped up a lot,” the left-hander said.
“But I just finished 2015 off so good … and I just feel like there’s a little bit of unfinished business and I want to go out on my terms.”
Barty has gained a wildcard into the singles main draw where world No.1 Angelique Kerber will start as favourite in a strong field that has left Samantha Stosur unseeded.
Dellacqua expects the 20-year-old partner to blossom in her second coming.
“She’s like a little sister to me,” she said.
“It’s great to see her back healthy and happy.”
Australian trio Lizette Cabrera, Destanee Aiava and Anastasia Rodionova all kept their hopes alive of joining Barty and Stosur in the main draw with first-round qualifying wins while Sara Tomic, Jaimee Fourlis and Naiktha Bains all lost.