Australian wildcard duo storm finals
Such a buzz: Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty. Photo: Getty Images
CASEY Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty insist they have not thought too much about the loot that would come with a second career grand slam title for 28-year-old Dellacqua and a first at senior level for Barty, still just 16.
But, for one, a half-share of $475,000 would ease the financial pressure in Battlersville; for the other, another Richmond footy jumper, perhaps, for a growing collection.
Dellacqua and Barty are the first all-Australian pair to qualify for an Australian Open doubles final since Evonne Goolagong and Helen Gourlay did in a December 1977 final scheduled during the pre-Melbourne Park days at Kooyong that was washed out by rain. In just their third tournament together, the wildcard duo seem to have surprised themselves. Did they expect this?
''I think deep down we did, but we didn't know that. I don't know if that makes sense,'' said Dellacqua, an accomplished doubles veteran whose record includes the French Open mixed doubles crown with American Scott Lipsky in 2011. ''As a player, when you walk out on court you think you can win. There's no point walking out otherwise.
''When I won our first round with Ash, she said 'that was my first win in a grand slam'. Oh, my God, I can't remember what that feels like. It was like, 'oh, my God, that's really exciting to know it's her first grand slam win'.
''The fact we're in the final, yeah, it is incredible. Ash is 16. It's amazing. It's amazing for me. It's such a buzz for me, even at the stage in my career and what I've been through with injuries. Coming back, I've won obviously the French Open mixed. This is such a buzz. We've got one more to go, but so far it's been amazing.''
Their opponents are the top seeds, Italians Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, who won two of the four doubles majors last year, and eliminated the favoured Williams sisters.
''Yeah, we're definitely the underdogs,'' left-handed Dellacqua said. ''I don't think many people would have thought we'd be in the final. To go out there and think we're going to beat the No. 1 players in the world, it's going to be a big task. But we're up for it. We've had enough matches this week. It's now just about, again, doing what we've done in every match we've done so far, and that's executing the things we do well.
''We know the way Vinci and Errani play doubles. I've played both of them in singles. I think we have a fair idea of what to expect when we go out there … These grand slam finals, they're exciting.''
It is an unexpected bonus for Barty, who impressed in the mixed doubles with Bernard Tomic at the Hopman Cup, and has volleying and tactical instincts way beyond her years; the second-youngest player in the top 200 singles list at No. 174, is No. 145 in doubles. But by reaching the 2011 Brisbane International semi-finals on debut, and winning an ITF title in Japan in November in their only other tournaments together, the likeable duo have gelled as partners like the firm off-court friends they have become.
''Already this week for me has been such an achievement. To be in the final with Casey has been unbelievable. It's already been an amazing week. If we can go one step further, it would be incredible,'' said right-handed Barty.
And the loot? ''You don't really think about it,'' Dellacqua said. ''That's the truth. Honestly, you don't ever really think about it. I know for me being older, it's not easy. I'm not making millions, so anything is great. I invest back into my career in terms of what I need to do. Yeah, it's awesome.''
And for Barty, the 2011 junior Wimbledon champion and high school student from Ipswich whose career earnings stand at around $120,000. More money than she could have dreamed of. ''Yeah, exactly. It will cover a few of the Tigers jerseys that I buy. I have far too many at home. I have no idea. Haven't thought about it. Just go out there and play.''