By Jane Voigt
March 10, 2018 — Danielle Collins had never won a main draw match until yesterday. Now she’s won two, the second earned when she upset Madison Keys (No. 15) today at the BNP Paribas Open, 6-3, 7-6(1).
“Just an amazing effort from Collins,” Paul Annacone said, calling the second-round match for Tennis Channel. “She managed the environment and trusted her game.”
Keys, well-known for her power game, played inconsistently and didn’t take advantage of big points. She failed to win the second set and even the match twice, once due to a double fault.
“My coach and I talked,” Collins told Tennis Channel afterward. “I had to make a lot of balls, try not to play into her strength, and step in when necessary.”
Collins, who’s from St. Petersburg, Fla., transferred to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, to take advantage of the school’s academics and tennis program. She won the NCAA singles title in 2014 and 2016, the year she graduated.
“When I won the NCAA [title] I was looking at a bigger picture,” she said. “I didn’t want to be just a tennis player. I am pretty bright so I wanted to continue my education. My parents did not graduate from college, so I wanted to do that.”
Collins out-aced heavy-hitter Keys 5-1. One reason was Collins position on court.
“It was important to give myself some space and not hug the baseline because of her big serve,” Collins added. Taking advantage of ‘some space’ Collins maintained should’ve helped Keys create more angles. However she couldn’t keep the ball in the court, a problem many players face in this California desert because the ball flies.
Collins won more points on successful first and second serves, which means she was the offensive one on court. That should have been one of Madison’s keys to victory. Collins won half the overall return points, as well.
“I focused on things I could control,” Collins continued. “And, I tried to have positive energy.”
“She was not overwhelmed by playing someone in top 15,” Tracy Austin said on Tennis Channel. “Her composure was impeccable; she found the right balance.”
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call for Maddy,” Lindsay Davenport, Madison’s coach, said on Tennis Channel. “You’ve got to want it more than your opponents out there and Danielle Collins was much more motivated today to win the match.”
Collins earned her wildcard to the main draw by effectively defeating Sofya Zhuk at the 125K Newport Beach Challenger recently. Ironically, Collins will play Zhuk – who is also in on a wildcard – in the third round. The Russian teenager defeated Magdalena Rybarikova (No. 18), 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Zhuk served for the match twice, the first time giving up 11 match points. To her credit, she immediately broke then held serve to win the match.
Collins is unfamiliar with the big stage of pro tennis, Indian Wells being the biggest tournament she’s ever played.
“Sometimes you have to start at the bottom and work up,” Collins said. “I liked playing those smaller tournaments. But it’s an incredible tournament here.”
If the NCAA champ wins her next match against Zhuk, she’ll either play Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 27) or Elina Svitolina (No. 4) next week. With momentum in her corner after today’s upset, who’s to say Collins might not stick around?