Danielle Collins reaches first Grand Slam final at Australian Open
An American woman will play in the Australian Open final for the third straight year after 28-year-old Danielle Collins more than rose to the occasion in one of the biggest matches of her career. In her second trip to the semifinals in Melbourne, Collins, seeded No. 27, advanced to her biggest career final with a dominant 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek in Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night.
In the 78-minute match, Collins never trailed. She sprinted out to 4-0 leads in both sets and never allowed Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champion, to work her way into things. Collins needed five set points to win the opener, though, as Swiatek denied her three at 5-2.
"It's been an incredible journey this tournament. Having a lot of fun on court, a lot of tough opponents, battles out there. To be through to the final is really incredible. I think I'm at a loss for words right now," Collins told reporters after the match.
"I think today, with the tactics and game plan that I had, getting off to the solid start that I had, I felt like I was really in the zone. There wasn't a lot getting in my way. I was in really good rhythm, hitting the ball really clean, moving the ball around well. Just playing some really solid tennis. In the zone is the best way to describe it."
The stats agreed: Collins hit 27 winners, including seven clean return winners and seven aces, to 13 unforced errors. She lost just seven points when she landed a first serve, and won 58% of the points played in Swiatek's service games.
Last year in Australia, Jennifer Brady became the first former women's college player to reach a Grand Slam final since Kathy Jordan in 1983. Collins, a 2016 graduate of the University of Virginia who won the two NCAA singles titles, makes it two straight. And in 2020, Sofia Kenin won her first major Down Under to kick off the recent streak of success for American women in Melbourne.
Regardless of the final result, Collins is guaranteed to make her Top 10 debut next week, passing a previous career-high of world No. 23.
"It means a lot, especially with Jenny being American and being friends with her ... seeing the way now that so many people are going to college and then turning pro. We're seeing that on the men's side, as well, which is really special, because I think there is a lot of pros to going that route," Collins said. "I certainly was very happy that I chose to go to college before and used that as some crucial developmental years to help me get to where I am today. I feel just like great that there is more people going to college and going that route, because I think it's a great way to transition onto the tour."
Collins will face world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Saturday's' final, who kicked off the semifinal session with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Madison Keys and denied the prospect of an all-American match. The 62-minute match continued Barty's mastery of the field at her home Grand Slam so far this fortnight: in six matches, she's only been broken once, and she's dropped just 21 games in 12 sets. Collins has played Barty four times, with the Aussie holding a 3-1 head-to-head edge.
They've played twice in Australia in the last two years, and Collins will go into the match having won their last meeting: a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the third round in Adelaide last year. (They also played in Adelaide in 2020, where Barty hung on in a thrilling, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) win. Collins says she hopes her previous experiences against Barty, as well as her experience playing in raucous environments at Virginia, will serve her well as she chases a third WTA singles title, and first Grand Slam.
"Even the matches that I have lost have been some of my most memorable moments on court because of the way we were battling and going back and forth," Collins said. "Something I really admire about Ash's game is her variety, playing 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 that she does, and have the big serve the way that she does.
"I think when I go out against her, we're going to have another battle hopefully and put on a good show for everyone. I'm going to have to kind of look back at some of the matches that we have played in the past and sit down and kind of think about what worked well and maybe some of the things that didn't work as well and just try to come up with the best game plan possible.
"I think in college you get used to having an adverse crowd quite often. I always enjoyed it. I love playing with energy, whether it's for me, against me, neutral. I just love hearing people and having that fun energy. I hope that it's prepared me well, but we'll find out. This is going to be a little bit bigger stadium than some of the college matches I competed in, but just going to try to do the best that I can and embrace every moment."