WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va.—On Monday, Danielle Collins was dismissed from the 2020 World TeamTennis season after breaching the event's COVID-19 safety protocols. The world No. 51 was competing for the Orlando Storm but is now absent from the lineup.
WTT CEO Carlos Silva released this statement:
"We have dismissed Danielle Collins for the remainder of the 2020 World TeamTennis season after breaking our COVID-19 protocols and leaving the Greenbrier Resort and the state of West Virginia. The protocols have been put in place and communicated numerous times to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches, and staff which are of utmost importance to the WTT.”
Silva and the Orlando Storm team was made aware of the breach on Monday afternoon, when Collins couldn't make the team's COVID-19 test (the third one of this season, and done via blood prick).
"She didn't tell anybody she was going anywhere," Orlando's Tennys Sandgren says. "We were having a blood test yesterday. In the group chat it's 3 p.m. and we're leaving at 3:30 p.m. and she's like 'I'm in Charlottesville [Virginia].'"
The decision shows just how seriously WTT is taking its safety precautions. Ahead of the season's start on July 12, the league held a meeting with players to go over the rules, and there was as second meeting for team general managers and coaches for additional clarity.
"As I told Danielle, it put me in a bad position because all the other players were disappointed by it and were unhappy by it too," Silva says. "You've got to protect all the players around here. The most important thing is that we get to August 2."
Orlando Storm coach Jay Gooding with Danielle Collins and Jessica Pegula, on Sunday. (Ryan Loco)
"They had no choice but to handle it like that, from my understanding," Orlando coach Jay Gooding says. "I think it was made pretty clear that people weren't allowed to leave the property, obviously for safety reasons."
Players are not allowed to leave the grounds of The Greenbrier. Other rules include not going into The Greenbrier casino, wearing a mask indoors, undergoing multiple COVID-19 tests and respecting social distancing guidelines around hotel guests.
"I think they did the right thing," Sandgren says. "It's a team event and everybody has to be responsible with a pandemic going on and follow the protocols. It just shows you need to be on the same page with everybody else."
Charlottesville, Va. is the home of Collins' alma mater, the University of Virginia, and a two-hour drive from White Sulphur Springs.
"I think it was for nutritional purposes to get some food and supplements," says Gooding, who is also Collins' personal coach. "We've exchanged text messages. I've reached out to her. I'm sure she quite upset understandably."
Danielle Collins, during Sunday's play at The Greebrier. (Ryan Loco)
On July 12, the 26-year-old got off to an unusual start by sitting on the bench for the opening match. On July 13 against Las Vegas, she got on court but lost her first singles set to Monica Puig. The next day, she shut out Sloane Stephens, 5-0, contributing to the Chicago Smash's first loss.
But then things took a turn downward as Collins, and she lost to Kim Clijsters on July 16, and was subbed out during the women's doubles. She largely sat out for the next two matches—getting replaced in singles on Friday and getting switched out of doubles on Saturday.
On Sunday, she competed in both singles and doubles against Chicago. She and Jessica Pegula would lose to Eugenie Bouchard and Bethanie Mattek-Sands; in singles, Collins went up 3-1 against Stephens before Bouchard was subbed in to replace Stephens. With a few racquet smashes along the way, Collins would lose 5-4 after holding a 4-1 lead, and her team would fall, slipping down to 3-4 on the season.
Without Collins on Tuesday morning, Orlando Storm posted a 17-14 win over the Washington Kastles to improve to 4-4.
"The team really pulled together," Gooding says. "It was a stressful afternoon for everyone, not just our team but for the WTT league because it's not an easy decision, it's not a fun decision to dismiss someone. They really have come together and want to make the most of the rest of the time we have here."