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Pro Media & News

Danielle Collins finishes as runner-up at Australian Open

Victoria Chiesa | January 29, 2022

It took the world's best to deny Danielle Collins a championship at the Australian Open. Playing in her first Grand Slam final, the 28-year-old University of Virginia graduate and No. 27 seed put a scare into Ashleigh Barty, but it was the world No. 1 who came away with the first major trophy of 2022 in Saturday's final inside Rod Laver Arena, 6-3, 7-6(2).

 

Barty, the first Australian woman to win the singles title Down Under in 44 years, didn't lose a set in her seven victories, but Collins came closest to taking her the distance in the 87-minute championship match. After dropping the opener, the American raced out to a 5-1 lead in the second and seemed primed to force a decider, but never reached set point.

 

Collins twice served for the set at 5-1 and 5-3, and had a 15-30 lead in Barty's last full service game at 6-5, but the Aussie showed her mettle each time. In the ensuing tiebreak, Barty sprinted out to a 4-0 lead and never looked back. She hit three of her 30 winners for the match in the tiebreak, and clinched victory with a final forehand flourish.

 

"Not the result that I wanted obviously tonight, but I gave it my best effort. I did everything that I could. I was pushed to the max, and I gave myself a chance there in the end. Unfortunately it didn't go my way, but I did everything I could, and that's all you can do at the end of the day," Collins told reporters in defeat. 

 

"It was a great event for me. Accomplished some new things. Learned a lot of new things. Certainly have some areas to improve, which is a good thing. [I] played against a great competitor tonight and it was a fun battle."

 

She added: "I think, right now, I'm disappointed but I think that we're going to have some time to celebrate everything that I accomplished this week with the people here supporting me. It's a great moment for me regardless of the outcome today, and I knew that before going into the match."

Collins and Barty with Australian legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley, winner of seven Grand Slam titles. Photo credit: Getty Images

In defeat, Collins earned the praises of both Barty and her coach, Craig Tyzzer. Since returning from surgery for endometriosis last May, Collins has posted a 42-11 record and reached three WTA finals, winning her first two career titles in Palermo, Italy and San Jose, Calif. last year. 

 

"You're in the Top 10 and that's absolutely where you belong," Barty said, addressing Collins on court. "I know that you'll be fighting for many more of these in the future."

 

Tyzzer added: "She's an incredible competitor. She's always been feisty, always been up and about, and her college background sort of has built that into her. She just takes the ball so early. She takes the serve early, stands up in the court, and hits the ball early."

 

In all, Barty beat four Americans en route to her third major title, all in the last four rounds. In addition to Collins, she also took down Amanda Anisimova in Round 4, Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals and Madison Keys in the semifinals. Collins is nonetheless the seventh American woman to reach the Australian Open singles final since 2000 and the third straight, joining Jennifer Brady, Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport.

 

Collins was also bidding to become the first woman who played college tennis to win a major since Barbra Jordan captured the 1979 Australian Open. No former NCAA women's singles champion has ever won a Grand Slam; Collins won two NCAA individual titles for Virginia in 2014 and 2016. 

 

With her run in Australia, Collins will make her Top 10 debut in the WTA rankings on Monday at world No. 10, rising from her current perch of world No. 30 and bettering her previous career-high of world No. 23. The U.S. No. 5 when she arrived in Australia, Collins supplants Kenin, Coco Gauff, Pegula and Brady to become the new American No. 1.

 

"For a while, I've wanted to be a Top 10 player. It was a goal of mine last year, I fell a little bit short. To reach it this early on in the season has meant the world to me. I think that I just have to keep going day by day and just working towards my goals. There's other things that I'm going to want to achieve moving forward," Collins said. 

 

"I've for a while believed that I'd be able to make deep runs, especially after winning my first two tournaments last year. I think the thing that I've been most impressed with is the way I've been able to adjust when I'm not playing my best and when I'm not feeling 100% physically, being able to make adjustments to get myself to be comfortable and to put myself in a position to win sets and matches. I think that's probably what I've been most proud of in this tournament.

 

"I'm just trying to stick with the process and do the best that I can. I'm learning a lot of things along the way. Ash certainly taught me a lot of things today on court."

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