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Still Standing: Danielle Collins books first major final at Australian Open after Iga Swiatek domination
The American blitzed Swiatek in under 80 minutes and will play world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the biggest match of her career.
Published Jan 27, 2022
WATCH: The Australian Open has witnessed a calmer Collins through a fortnight worth celebrating as loudly as she once would.
COME ON: the signature battle cry punctuating many a Danielle Collins game, set, and match since she made her major main draw debut at the 2014 US Open—one to which multiple YouTube videos pay tribute.
Once derided, the frequent emotional release is now embraced by tennis fans who recognize camp when they see it. Collins mirrored their own unbridled enthusiasm and endeared them with an authenticity that transcended the tennis court, candidly sharing her health struggles and subsequent endometriosis ordeal.
Ironic, then, that the American’s near-perfect Australian Open fortnight should be accompanied by so little reaction. At the end of a 6-4, 6-1 demolition of 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek to reach her first Grand Slam final, the player christened DanYell let the Rod Laver Arena crowd do the shouting.
Led by a cheering squad of local fans, they happily obliged, acknowledging the 28-year-old’s impeccable effort in under 80 minutes. She raced through the first four games of each set, withstanding a fightback from Swiatek in the former and making no mistakes in the latter, demolishing the Pole from all areas of the court thanks to 27 winners and seven aces.
It was a cool performance from the typically fiery Collins, who has run silent for much of the fortnight but has trended calmer since returning from surgery last summer. In front of a packed Court 5 crowd in New York, she gave the crowd a quiet salute after reaching the third round and clinching her best US Open result. She did the same on Friday with Swiatek, allowing just one outburst to let fans know DanYell was alive and well.
For those who are familiar with my tennis and know my back story, nobody would’ve ever thought I’d make it this far, and I’ve proven so many people wrong...I’m so incredibly proud of myself. Danielle Collins
To know the origin of her emotional demonstrativeness is to understand perhaps why we’re seeing—and hearing—less of it. Collins grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida to a working-class family. A contemporary of Sloane Stephens and Lauren Davis, she would not become a fixture at the junior Grand Slams like her countrywomen. Financial hardship put her on the college track, where she captured two NCAA championships for the University of Virginia.
“Nobody would’ve ever thought I’d make it this far, and I’ve proven so many people wrong,” she told the Miami Herald in 2019, two months after reaching her first major semifinal Down Under.
Pain was another driving force, one Collins was equally determined to overcome by sheer force of will, until it finally became too much last year—oddly enough following a retirement to Swiatek in Adelaide.
“The advice that I had gotten over the years, is that painful periods are normal, taking anti-inflammatories on a regular basis is normal,” she said after reaching the semis. “I felt like it was something that I just had to deal with.”
Suddenly the persistent encouragement made perfect sense: against all odds, Collins had scrapped together an entirely credible pro career. Every point was worth celebrating.
At last in a place of personal and professional peace, she literally can’t sit still, refusing to break for the traditional 90-second changeover.
“I’m even standing when I’m asleep!” she joked to Jelena Dokic on court.
Collins has quieted the noise to unleash the game she always believed she could play, twice rallying from a set down earlier in the tournament against Clara Tauson and Elise Mertens and dropping two 6-1 sets in her last two matches.
Seeded No. 27 at the start of the week, she will make her Top 10 debut regardless of how she fares in Saturday’s final. Her opponent is world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, whom she beat in their most recent meeting last February. Based on how she handled the semis, it’s safe to predict few of the exhortations that first made her famous. But mistake her silence for indifference at your own risk; she may boil over less often, but DanYell still burns, and has won over plenty of fans who will eagerly COME ON at her noisemaking tennis.