Resurgent Casey Dellacqua expects the next few years to be the best of her tennis career after equalling her best grand slam performance.
Six years after first riding a wave of emotion into the fourth round of the Australian Open, an older, wiser and fitter Dellacqua is back into the last 16 at Melbourne Park after trouncing China's two-time major semi-finalist Zheng Jie 6-2 6-4 yesterday.
Now 28 and with long-time shoulder problems well in the past, the West Australian left-hander is playing the best tennis of her life, as evidenced by dropping just 13 games in her opening three rounds.
"Everybody peaks at different times in their careers," Dellacqua said.
"You see it in the guys, at 25 or 26. But even the girls, like Serena [Williams], she's playing her best tennis and she's 32.
"I think you see that a lot more because it's a tough sport, it's mentally tough.
"It has so many different elements. As you get older, I think you cope with a lot of that stuff better.
"I feel definitely at 28 I'm playing my best tennis.
"I wish it was at 22 or 21, but at this point in time I'm happy to be in the fourth round, and I'm happy at this point in my career I am playing my best tennis.
"When I finish, whenever it is, I can say that I reached my potential, I did what I could, and I'll be happy with that."
Dellacqua's competitive nature came to the fore midway through the second set yesterday, when Zheng took a five-minute medical time out to be treated for heat stress on another brutally hot day.
Rather than be distracted, Dellacqua took it as a positive.
"I'm pretty competitive and I've always had that. But I don't think I've ever let that competitiveness out much.
"In each match now, I'm really focused. I'm here to do a job and I love it, I love what I do.
"But I want to see girls crack it at the other end of the court and I want to win.
" . . . I'm probably a lot more ruthless in my old age."
Her reward is a very winnable fourth-round clash tomorrow with Canadian No 30 seed Eugenie Bouchard, who saw off the challenge of American Lauren Davis 6-2 6-2 yesterday.
"It's going to be a tough one," Dellacqua said.
"[Bouchard] is a great player, she's had really good results of late.
"She's seeded here, she's on the rise, she's playing some really great tennis but so am I.
"It should be a great match." AAP