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Casey Dellacqua

This week, perhaps more than any other, getting off to a good start has never been more important. 

And a fast start proved to be the difference yet again in Friday's third-round match between Casey Dellacqua and Jie Zheng, which Dellacqua won in straight sets 6-2 6-4. 

With record temperatures sapping the strength and resolve of players this week, the first set has often meant the difference between winning and losing. Of the 48 women's matches played in the first two rounds, 43 were won by the player who won the first set. 

And so it proved again on Friday with Dellacqua winning the first and then going on to win the match.  

The unseeded Australian has now equalled her best result here, which came in 2008 when she ousted seeded players Patty Schnyder and Amelie Mauresmo. 

Dellacqua opened strongly on Friday, breaking Zheng in the first and seventh games of the first set. 

Her clean ball striking was on show as she confidently took control of points, frustrating Zheng into error. Zheng also had trouble with Dellacqua's sliding serve out wide, which she used to great effect. 

Another feature of the Australian's game was her defensive efforts. Injuries have ruined Dellacqua's ability to string together an uninterrupted run of tennis in recent years, but with all her injuries behind her and  a solid training block under her belt, the world No.120 is in arguably the best shape of her career. 

This new-found level of fitness meant Dellacqua was not only able to chase down some particularly tricky drop shots from Zheng, but she was also staying in rallies longer and winning points that in the past would have gotten away from her. 

Dellacqua broke Zheng in the opening game of the second set, just as she'd done in the first. But this time, Zheng broke back to square the set at 1-1. 

The momentum swung back to Dellacqua in the fifth game when an untimely double fault and loose ground strokes from Zheng conspired against her and allowed Dellacqua to once again wrest control of the match from her opponent. 

With Dellacqua leading 4-3, Zheng called for the trainer after experiencing breathing difficulties. The doctor and trainer used bags of ice to cool Zheng down during a medical time-out. 

Zheng returned to the court and promptly broke back to tie up the second set once again. But Dellacqua wasn't about to let this match slip out of her grasp with most of her family watching on from her player's box. 

Dellacqua broke straight back before serving out the match to set up a fourth-round meeting with young Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard. 

"I've been training in this heat and I was happy to be out here in Rod Laver [Arena] again," said Dellacqua who also spoke about her return from various injuries that have included shoulder and ankle problems. 

"It feels pretty good, I didn't know if I'd ever be back in the fourth round of the Australian Open or any Grand Slam … now I'm back in the fourth round and it feels awesome." 

Dellacqua's upcoming match will be her first against Bouchard, but she's more than aware of the 30th seed's growing reputation. 

"It's gonna be a tough one, she's a great player … she's seeded here, she's on the rise. she's playing some really good tennis, but so am I.  

"Should be a good match … I really look forward to it." 

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Post-Tournament
Friday, 25 April 2014
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