Danielle Collins: A Breakthrough Run In Melbourne

Danielle Collins with the Australian Open runner-up trophy.
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Despite coming up short in the championship match against Ashleigh Barty, Danielle Collins should be feeling great about her breakthrough run in Melbourne. And now, she finds herself in the top 10 of the WTA rankings.

Collins entered this year’s Australian Open as the 27th seed and probably wasn’t on most tennis fans’ radars to make it to the finals. However, the 28-year-old American showed plenty of grit and determination during her impressive run.  She would beat Caroline Dolehide, Ana Konjuh, Clara Tauson, Elise Mertens, Alize Cornet, and Iga Swiatek to make it to the championship match against the hometown favourite.

“This is what we live for in sports. These are incredible moments,” Collins pointed out about competing in her maiden Grand Slam final. “It was a real honour to be out there. I tried to embrace every moment. I tried to get the crowd fired up. I tried to get myself into it. I did everything I could.”

Going up against Barty at Rod Laver Arena, it’s understandable that many Australian tennis fans viewed Collins as the villain in the match up against their hometown hero. And the 28-year-old American was eager to play the part. “That kind of stuff only helps me,” said Collins about being heckled by some of the fans.

“I think for those who have watched me over the past couple of years have kind of seen that and learned that. I love nothing more than someone doing that because I just love competing and love trying to make it fun and that was kind of what it was… it added some flare to the match.” Ultimately, the world #1 would prove to be a little too much for Collins on this day as Barty would capture the 2022 Aussie Open title in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6 (2).

During the trophy presentation, Barty had plenty of praise for her American counterpart. “Congratulations to Danielle and your team, it’s been an amazing fortnight for you here. You are in the top 10, it’s absolutely where you belong.  And I know you will be fighting for a lot more of these (championship trophies) in the future,” the 25-year-old Australian said.

Collins entered this year’s Aussie Open ranked 30th. But her stellar play in Melbourne over the last two weeks will see her break into the top 10 for the first time in her career. The American is no stranger to success at the Australian Open.  In 2019, Collins enjoyed a Cinderella run to the semifinals in Melbourne before being stopped by Petra Kvitová.  Prior to the 2019 Aussie Open, Collins had not won a singles match at a Grand Slam event.

It is interesting to note that the former University of Virginia standout arrived in Melbourne this year without a coach. Instead, Collins was supported by her long-time mentor, Marty Schneider, who she thanked during the trophy presentation, and also in her post match presser.

“I remember playing smaller tournaments and facing challenges and bumps on the road and how I use to go about things and think about things.  And how clueless I was sometimes and how much I’ve grown and learned from those moments. We can look back and laugh but during those moments (Marty and I) had some tough conversations,” recalled the two-time NCAA singles champ about her long-time mentor.

“We’ve shared some incredible memories over the years but especially this week to see all those baby steps come together now being on the biggest stage in the world, it’s just been so special.” Given her breakthrough success in Australia and her rise into the top 10 for the first time in her career, it’s safe to say she will no longer be under the radar of tennis fans anymore.  And Collins says she is eager to embrace the spotlight.

“As a professional athlete one of the most special things that we get to experience is the love and support from people all around the world,” she acknowledged. “I feel like earlier on in my career people didn’t know a lot about me aside from me just going to college… I want people to know me better and feel as if they do know me.” Ranked 10th, the 28-year-old is now the highest ranked American on both the WTA and ATP Tours. And with continued success on the tennis courts, Collins could become a household name in the years to come.

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