“This is my time,” Danielle Collins said after her Miami Open third round victory over Monica Puig. Well, looks like the 24-year-old Virginia tennis alum wasn’t messing around: Collins picked up the biggest win of her young career with a dominating 6-2, 6-3 triumph over No. 8 Venus Williams in the tournament quarterfinals.
Collins came out blazing, showing she belonged on the court with the talented Williams as she hit aces, returned serves, and pegged beautiful backhands down the line. She got out to a 4-1 lead on Williams in the first set before Williams closed the gap slightly at 4-2. Collins responded by winning the next two games to take the first set.
In the second set, Collins jumped out to a 2-0 lead after breaking Williams’ first serve, but Williams answered by breaking Collins and evening the score at two games apiece. Collins refused to be intimidated.
Collins went up 5-2, putting the pressure on Williams on the serve. Williams won the point, keeping the match alive, but Collins closed the door with a final rally for the huge upset and a spot in the semifinals against No. 6 Jelena Ostapenka.
Currently ranked No. 93 in the WTA rankings, Collins is expected to vault all the way to 53rd just by virtue of her win over Williams. Another win in the semifinals could propel Collins to a position solidly inside the world top 50. Not bad for someone ranked 117th coming into the week.
Her quarterfinal win was the latest in a long run of impressive upsets by the St. Petersburg native. Since the calendar turned to March, Collins has notched upsets of three top-20 players in No. 8 Williams, No. 14 Madison Keys (Indian Wells), and No. 16 CoCo Vanderweghe.
Collins has used her experience as two-time NCAA singles champion (2014 and 2016) and her degree from the University of Virginia to help her as she’s battling physically and mentally on the court. Said Collins in a recent New York Times interview:
“It gives you peace of mind knowing this isn’t do or die,” she said. “If tennis doesn’t work out, if I get injured, I’m going to be O.K. I’m going to be able to get a job, and I’m going to be able to get a good job. I went to a good university and I worked hard. I can go out on the court with a much different perspective maybe than people who didn’t go to college, and I really try to utilize that to the fullest.”
Her meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed in the tennis world, either.
And my vote for Most Improved @WTA Player in 2018 goes to Danielle Collins. She was outstanding with @UVAWomensTennis, but she's found a whole new level the last two weeks, beating Madison Keys, Coco, Puig and now Venus.— Sonny Dearth (@sdearth) March 29, 2018
While Collins rests up before facing Ostapenko, she’ll have a career-defining win to soak in. From the sound of her post-match interview, it may take a while before she appreciates the full magnitude of tonight’s accomplishment.
“I’ve idolized her my whole life. This is such a special moment. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.” -Danielle Collins on her QF victory over her idol, Venus Williams #MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/n7NQYT4GlB— WTA (@WTA) March 29, 2018
The semifinal match between Williams and Ostapenko will begin “not before” 9 PM on Thursday, March 29, and be broadcast on ESPNEWS.