INDIAN WELLS — On Saturday, Danielle Collins walked away with the biggest win of her short career by taking out world No. 14 Madison Keys, 6-3, 7-6 (1). On paper, Keys was the obvious favorite, but the world No. 117-ranked Collins didn't think so.
"The biggest thing with my most recent wins is it shows me I belong at this level. Even today I knew I could win that match," Collins told TENNIS.com. "Even when I was down, even when I got unlucky, even when the momentum was broken up, I just knew in my heart that I would win."
That kind of confidence didn't get built overnight. The 24-year-old hit the pro tour after graduating from the University of Virginia in 2016 with two NCAA singles titles. She finished her first full year touring in 2017 at a solid No. 167 with three ITF $25,000 titles to her name.
But over the last few months, Collins' form has skyrocketed to the big leagues. At the start of 2018, Collins won a WTA 125K series in Newport Beach.
"Before Newport I had never won more than a round at a 125K," Collins said. "I just kept going. Everyday we're working on different things and trying to apply them to my game. I'm on a roll right now and I'm playing really good tennis."
Keys would have to agree.
"I definitely think these slow, high-bouncing, gritty courts don't completely play to my favor," Keys said. "I think she's very crafty. She gets a ton of balls back. More than anything I think she's just really good at restarting the point over and over again."
Collins is based at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., which is the same coastal city she was born in. She trains with Pat Harrison (Christian and Ryan Harrison's father) and Tom Hill (a recent graduate from Pepperdine).
"Tom is such an even-keeled guy. He's just very enthusiastic all the time and that's so helpful because sometimes you're not going to be a big ray of sunshine and you need somebody that's enthusiastic," Collins said.
"Pat's known me for such a long time," Collins added. "It's good having someone like that in our corner guiding both of us because it's a little bit of a learning experience."
The learning curve for a player trying to crack the Top 100 will include plenty of challenges, and a wide variety of match venues. Already, Collins is extremely well-prepared.
"Hopefully I'm going to get to the point pretty soon where I'm playing all WTA events. It's a process," she said. "It's good to play those smaller tournaments at times, too. It kind of gives you a little bit of humility."
For Collins, as she gains even more experience and endures the rollercoaster ahead, her well-balanced attitude will remain the most important.
"I really have made a commitment that when I'm on the court I'm going to have a positive attitude and I'm not going to be a brat," she said. "The biggest thing is always having good energy—making sure you're happy and keeping a good perspective."
WTA Indian Wells is on Tennis Channel Plus.
From Day 1 through to the Finals.
Up to 7 courts, including the biggest matches of each day.
Live and on-demand.