By Jane Voigt
March 28, 2018 — Venus Williams is a three-time Miami Open winner, with her first title dating back to 1998. Tonight the legend plays Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals. The University of Virginia graduate and two-time N.C.A.A. singles champion imitated Venus, as a girl growing up on public tennis courts in St. Petersburg, Fla. She was four years old when Venus captured that first title twenty years ago at this tournament.
Comparing Venus’s age to almost any player is common. At 37, and a couple months shy of 38, Williams hasn’t uttered a peep about retirement, although she’s asked time after time. Her attitude … If I’m playing well, why stop.
After she defeated defending champion Johanna Konta yesterday, a reporter asked Williams how she can play back-to-back 3-set matches, according to asapsports.com. “I mean you’re 37 and having two matches back-to-back that were three hours long … how do you do that in two days?”
“I don’t see what 37 has to do with it,” Venus replied.
The press room is one place that age and experience outshine the youngsters players biting at Venus’s heels on court.
Collins may have imitated Venus’s style of tennis, as a kid. But the U.V.A. graduate will put her awe and inspiration on the back burner tonight. She has to in order to continue her rise in the ranks, which started in earnest just last week in Indian Wells. She reached the round of sixteen as a qualifier there, which raised her ranking from No.160 at the start of the year to No. 93. She then had to play qualifications, prior to entering the main singles draw in Miami.
“This is my time,” Collins said, The New York Times reported, after having defeated Olympic Gold Medalist and Miami native, Monica Puig. Collins has also beaten Irina-Camelia Begu, a former top-20 player, CoCo Vandeweghe (No. 16), and Donna Vekic. Venus, though, will be her toughest opponent to date, especially with crowds in her corner.
“I have never seen her play,” Venus said. “But, I do love seeing Americans do well. She seems like a super-nice person, so it would be nice to play an American.”
All three rounds prior to tonight’s blockbuster went three sets for Collins. She throttled CoCo 6-1 in the third, Vekic 6-1, and Puig 6-2.
Collin’s father played tennis, but wasn’t prepared to coach Collins when potential was apparent. Her parents couldn’t bankroll elite academy tuition either. So Collins hung out at local courts, picking up games with “older people.” Her hard-working parents gave Collins a strong foundation. Her fighting spirit has been learned over time.
“My dad is the most hard-working person I know and both of my parents … nothing was ever handed to them,” she said. “I’m grateful that they did everything they could for me.”
So even though Williams and Collins are separated by age and experience, they share common ground. Both grew up on public hard-courts: Venus in Compton, Calif., and Collins in Florida. Their fathers were instrumental in their overall growth, as well, and they fought for what they’ve achieved by bypassing the traditional path of the junior tennis circuit.
This will be Venus’s 15th quarterfinal, Collins’ first. Although the setting could overwhelm her, experience from Indian Wells and tough matches during college, where fans are raucous, should’ve prepared her enough. Collins believes her hard work in college and the degree she earned in media studies in 2014 have helped her stay calm on court.
“If tennis doesn’t work out, if I get injured, I’m going to be O.K,” Collins began. “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 worked hard. I can go out on the court with a much different perspective maybe than people who didn’t go to college. I really try to utilize that to the fullest.”
Like Venus, Collins focuses on those things she can control.
“You have to realize that the player across the net wants to win, too,” Venus said, according to asapsports.com. “You have to fight for every point and if you come up short, then you start over again. Everyone is so good now that you can’t expect to have an easy match. If you win, you won. If you lost, you go work harder. What else can I say?”