Danielle Collins is a physical force. A tornado. She comes at opponents with an unhurried urgency, swinging off both flanks, cutting time and limiting options. The American’s celebration, a shout that springs from deep inside her, sticks in the air, resonating in her fight.
Collins, the 27th seed, will strive to showcase those compelling dynamics, in the Australian Open on Saturday, her first major final, where she’s pitted against the host nation’s beloved -Ashleigh Barty, the world No. 1.
Danielle Collins and Ashleigh Barty. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Collins, 28, who took the gradual collegiate route to the pros, was also hindered by health issues. She underwent emergency surgery nine months ago for endometriosis, a painful condition, in which tissue similar to the lining on the inside of the uterus grows on the outside of it. A cyst the size of a tennis ball was removed from her uterus in March.
Collins has an added edge to her game post-surgery. Perhaps because it has allowed her to train the way she wants, unlike the preceding months and years, when she worked with a stifling restriction. Since returning from surgery in May, Collins has compiled a 36-10 record, including her first two WTA titles in Palermo and San Jose.
She is now guaranteed to make her top-10 debut, surpassing her previous career high of No. 23 since before her surgery. Iga Swiatek, who came a cropper against Collins in the semifinals, said the American’s was the fastest ball she had faced.
“I’ve spent so much time in the weight room working on power and speed,” said Collins, the very definition of poker-faced in a match. “When I go out on court, I’m able to translate it into my tennis, unload my legs and rotational strength into hitting hard shots. ”
Collins grew up on the public courts of Florida, where she played against men who were out there playing for beers, the jagged experience schooling her on many fronts. It introduced her to variety, including hissing single-handed slices, besides delivering lessons on the importance of competing with blinkers on.
“Even when I’m here and playing in these stadiums, I think back to all the special moments that I have had in public parks,” Collins said. “It’s my zone. ”
Barty, who has authored some of the fortnight’s most creative fare, is aiming to become the first home champion since 1978. The top seed, who leads the head-to-head 3-1, is the clear favourite.
“I admire Ash‘s variety,” said Collins, who is the third successive American, all with similar styles, up against the top seed at Melbourne Park. “She plays a different game style than pretty much all of the players on tour. There is not too many that use the slice backhand the way she does, play the big serve the way she does.”
The public-court experience may have evened playing fields for Collins the world over – seasoning her as a competitor while stoking her fire, but against Barty she’ll need all of that and some ice in her veins to counter the top seed’s dizzying range.