Qualifier Danielle Collins Surprises Venus Williams to Reach Miami Open Semis
(March 28, 2018) MIAMI – Danielle Collins became the first qualifier in Miami Open history to reach the final four, when she beat her idol Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday night.
“The first time I saw Venus in the locker room, I nearly cried. I mean, I’ve idolized her my whole life and she’s been my favorite player for forever,” the 93rd-ranked Collins said in her on-court interview.
“This is just such a special moment, I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.”
“I think it just takes a lot of years of hard work and you have to really go through a process,” she said of her first Top Ten win. “I’m just starting to finally put all of the pieces together.”
The 24-year-old who grew up learning the game on public courts and playing college tennis, winning the NCAA singles titles in 2014 and 2016, will see her ranking rise to at least No. 53 in the world next week.
Venus Williams, who also grew up playing on public court said: “You don’t have to do it the traditional way.”
“I obviously have an incredible amount of respect for Venus, but you kind of have to take the name out of it and just focus on the tennis part and play one point at a time and use your tactics that you come up with your coaches. That’s exactly what I did,” said Collins to media.
“I think all young American girls idolize and look up to Venus and Serena. You know, growing up I watched so many of their matches, and I could really relate to them, just their upbringing.
“I didn’t have an easy upbringing. I didn’t come from a super-wealthy family, and I wasn’t at the country club every day playing in the little tennis camps with the other little kids. A lot of times I was at public courts playing against adults and asking people to play with me. You know, my upbringing was just a little bit different.
“I think they kind of went through the same thing, and so that really resonates with me a lot.”
“Yeah, I mean, it was unlucky for me,” Williams said. “I don’t think it was my best night of tennis, but, I mean, there wasn’t a shot she couldn’t make. So that was just, you know, of course one of those days.”
“I mean, she played very well and aggressively, and she went for every shot and it landed,” explained Williams. “I mean, there’s going to be some days where they don’t land, but that wasn’t today.”
“Like I said, I tried to win the match. I mean, it’s not about how you feel. It’s about going out to perform to win.”
Collins talked about her tactics against the seven-time major champion:
“I kind of knew what side was weaker and I really wanted to expose that side as much as possible.
“I wanted to expose her movement. I know that she had played a couple long matches here, and movement is one of my strengths. So if I can get into a situation where I’m running a lot, I like that, and I know that I can come out on top when I’m in those situations and long points.
“So I wanted to get her kind of stretched off the court and open up the court for me. Just really get her running.”
Collins will play French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for a chance to make the final. Collins played the Latvian as a 17-year-old at the Eddie Herr junior tournament. Ostapenko was just 14.
“I played Ostapenko a long time ago, so I’m really excited now that we’re kind of grown up to play against each other,” said Collins.
“She’s a fighter. She won the French Open. It’s going to be another incredible opportunity for me, and I’m just really looking forward to get out on the court and having a great match.”
Ostapenko knocked out the highest ranked player left in the draw No. 4 Elina Svitolina 7-6(3), 7-6(5).
“Before the match I knew that I have to be very aggressive, and when I had a chance, I was going for it,” Ostapenko said. “Of course I was missing some because I was trying to play aggressive the whole match, but I think my winners are more than the unforced errors.”
“I come to play in the tournament without any expectations,” she added. “I just play every match, the first round and match by match. I just try to play my best, because every match is a tough match and I prepare really well for every match.”
Fourteenth seeded John Isner dominated with his serve in dismissing 19th seeded Hyeon Chung 6-1, 6-4 to make the elite eight in Miami. Isner nailed 13 aces past the South Korean and missed only one of 32 first serve points.
“I definitely served just as well as I did yesterday,” said Isner. “And when I’m serving like that, especially in conditions like this where the ball’s getting up high against my opponent, I know I can be very tough to beat. So that was another very good serving performance from me.”
Isner has never won a Masters Series 100 event, losing thre finals to three of the big four – Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, so he still has his eyes on the prize.
“Really what it comes down for me is keep doing what I’m doing and just keep that feeling that I’m having on the court,” he said. “If I can keep that and, you know, obviously block everything else out, it’s simple.
“As I said, just take care of my serve and hit my shots and just be calm out there and be relaxed. You can’t play when you’re tense and tight and elbows stuck here and you can’t release on your shots. It’s no fun playing like that. The way I played this week is a lot of fun.”
In the last match of the night session, Juan Martin del Potro extended his current match win streak to 15 in a row, defeating Canadian Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6(1), 7-6(3). He’ll play John Isner for a place in the men’s final.
“Del Potro is playing the best tennis in the world right now,” said Isner. “I don’t think that can be argued. He won Acapulco and he won Indian Wells, and he’s still going here.
“Physically he’s probably as fit as he’s ever been. Seems like he’s hitting his backhand with as much vigor as he ever has. He’s got everything else, as well. So he’s in a good space right now, for sure.”
More to follow…..