West Australian Casey Dellacqua is fitter and hungrier than ever and finally has the self belief needed to knock off the big guns in world tennis, according to former world No.8 Alicia Molik.
Dellacqua's future appeared bright in 2008 when she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and the third round at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
But a frustrating run of injuries halted her progress, with the 27-year-old slipping outside of the world's top 1000 at one point as she battled serious shoulder and foot issues.
A fit-again Dellacqua has since fought back to a world ranking of 84, and Molik believes the left hander will be a dark horse on the women's tour in 2013.
"I see a hungrier player out there now," Molik said.
"I see someone who's really willing to take it to the best players in the world.
"Five or six years ago when Casey first emerged on tour, I don't feel like she really believed that she could beat the best players in the world.
"But there's no question now that deep down inside she feels that she can be a contender with the best players on tour.
"She's fitter and stronger than she has ever been, so she has no problems getting out wide and moving to balls that maybe she couldn't cover in the past.
"It's very difficult now for the top players in the world to hurt Casey."
Molik said Dellacqua was enjoying her time on the tour more than ever after experiencing the frustration of sitting on the sidelines through injury.
And while Sam Stosur has struggled to cope with the hopes of the nation at the Australian Open in recent years, Molik predicted Dellacqua would thrive on the support.
"She certainly lifts when she plays in Australia," said Molik, who gave birth to her first child in January.
"A lot of players falter under the pressure and expectation of the nation, but I think Casey's one of the types that really relishes the fact she's got a big crowd behind her."
Dellacqua will team with world No.43 Bernard Tomic for this summer's Hopman Cup tournament in Perth.
Australia are seeded eighth for the mixed-teams event, and face a stiff task to make the final after being pitted in group A with top seeds Serbia (Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic).