Collins keeps U.S. alive
in Fed Cup debut
Arthur Kapetanakis | February 10, 2019
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Danielle Collins went from sick to savior this week in Asheville, as she recovered from a midweek illness to keep Team USA alive in its Fed Cup World Group opening-round encounter with Australia. The Australian Open semifinalist defeated Daria Gavrilova, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, to level the tie at 2-all and force a decisive doubles match at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Left out of Captain Kathy Rinaldi’s initial nominations in Friday’s draw, Collins benefited from an extra day of recovery on Saturday, when Sonya Kenin battled Ashleigh Barty as the U.S. No. 2 singles player. When the Australian Open semifinalist took the court for her Fed Cup debut, against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova—herself a substitution, for Kimberly Birrell—she carried the hopes of her team and her nation with her.ADVERTISEMENT
Collins was crisp from the first ball, matching her teammate Madison Keys by winning the match’s first three games. Only this time, the American cashed in on the head start, extending her lead to 5-0 as she cruised to the opener.
The opening set could have taken on a very different complexion, as Gavrilova squandered a break point in the opening game and a 40-love lead in game two. Instead, that sparked a Collins run in which she won 17 of 20 points to put the set out of reach.
An early break in set two looked to have the debutant on her way, but Gavrilova came out of the 2-1 changeover to win all eight points before skipping towards Captain Alicia Molik with a 3-2 advantage at the next change of ends. For the first time in the match, the Aussie began to match and surpass Collins’ emotional intensity on court, raising the volume on her grunts and celebrations as she edged closer to the set.
From 3-all, the Aussie won two straight deuce games and made no mistake when serving for the set, winning four convincing points to send it to a decider—a forehand winner sealing the deal. After the aggressive Collins won the first-set winner battle, 9-1, it was Gavrilova who edged the count, 7-5, in set two, as Molik urged her to attack from the bench.
Three American unforced errors gifted Gavrilova a break to open the third set, as Team Australia seized control. But Collins broke from 15-40 in game two, parlaying a rare net attack and some baseline grinding to turn the tide back in her favor.
The turning point of the set came in its fifth game, as Collins saved two break points to hold for 3-2. Perhaps the loudest cheer of the weekend came when Collins successfully challenged a backhand-volley drop shot for ad-in. The crowd matched their hero’s fire as the tensions mounted at the crescendo of the match—but not the tie, thanks to Collins.
Emerging from the changeover to “USA” chants from the Asheville crowd and resident marching band, Collins sprinted to a 5-2 lead, as she was able to stay tight to the baseline and force her opponent to defend in several punishing rallies. Both games in that change of ends followed the same pattern, with the American winning the first three points and a battling Gavrilova taking the next two. On each occasion, Collins closed the game out to steady U.S. nerves.
She would close out the match with another break—her sixth of the match—to set up a decisive doubles match to end the tie.
"There's nothing more rewarding than being able to look over at your awesome teammates," Collins said in an on-court interview. "When I was down in the third set, I looked over at Nicole [Melichar] and Sonya [Kenin] and they were smiling and cheering and with me every step of the way. Madison [Keys] was over there firing me up. I love being on a team and having people to have fun with an compete with."
Collins will take the court once again for the doubles decider, teaming with doubles specialist Nicole Melichar to take on Australia's Barty and Priscilla Hon.
"It doesn't get better than this," said Collins. "Playing at home and having the honor to represent my country ... We're so excited to be here and excited for another match."