MIAMI, FL, USA -- American qualifier Danielle Collins posted a shocking upset on Wednesday night at the Miami Open, swiftly ousting No.8 seed and three-time champion Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-3, in an all-American quarterfinal.
"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," Collins told the media during her post-match press conference. "That's exactly what I did."
Collins notched the first Top 10 win of her career with her 87-minute upset of the seven-time Grand Slam champion and World No.8. The two-time NCAA singles champion out of the University of Virginia becomes the first qualifier in the history of the Miami Open to reach the semifinals, which will also be the first Tour-level semifinal of her career.
"I have put in the hard work my whole life, so at the end of the day, I know I have done literally everything I can do to put myself in the best situation," said Collins. "And if I win the match, I win the match and it's awesome. If I lose the match, I lose the match knowing that I did everything in my power to put myself in the best situation."
“I’ve idolized her my whole life. This is such a special moment. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.” -Danielle Collins on her QF victory over her idol, Venus Williams #MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/n7NQYT4GlB
— WTA (@WTA) March 29, 2018
Collins used her aggressive baseline style to quickly outplay the former World No.1, winning her seventh match in a row on the courts of Key Biscayne after two straight-set wins in the qualifying and five main draw victories. The qualifier had 18 winners in the match, two more than Williams, and won nearly half of the points when returning the vaunted Williams serve.
"It was unlucky for me," Williams said during her post-match presser. "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."
In the semifinals, Collins will square off against sixth seed and reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who outdueled No.4 seed Elina Svitolina in two tiebreak sets earlier on Wednesday. Collins and Ostapenko have never played a professional match against each other, but did contest a junior match at the Eddie Herr International event in 2011.
"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," Collins told the press. "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."
— WTA (@WTA) March 28, 2018
Collins showed that she was in it to win it from first ball, staying with Williams during the first few games and taking advantage of the eighth seed’s unforced errors to take a 3-0 lead. Williams tuned up her game after the slow start to get on the board at 3-1 behind crosscourt winners off both wings, but the former WTA top-ranked player could never get ahead of the 24-year-old.
Williams had two chances to get back on serve at 3-1, but Collins was calmly placing her serves well, and cracked backhands for winners or Williams forced errors with regularity to keep her nose in front.
Collins then had a break point to lead 5-1, but Williams fended it off with a powerful overhead to hold for 4-2. However, any ideas that Collins would falter after that missed opportunity were quickly dispelled when she dug into Williams’ service at 5-2.
Powerful forehands and serves from the five-time Wimbledon titlist helped her to stave off two set points in that game, but an absurdly good defensive lob by Collins gave her the break and the opening frame. Collins took 57 percent of points on the Williams second serve during a set where she broke the 37-year-old superstar two times.
— WTA (@WTA) March 29, 2018
Collins continued with the momentum in the second set, crushing powerful forehands to break Williams for a 2-0 lead. However, Williams finally got a handle on the Collins serve in the following game, slamming a forehand winner of her own to claim her first service break of the match and end Collins’ four-game winning streak.
"It got a little tricky," said Collins, when asked about the Williams resurgence. "The wind picked up a little. I was struggling with my serve pretty much the whole match. So I just needed to take my time between points and regroup," she continued.
Indeed, the stifling aggression of Collins was never quelled, despite Williams getting back on serve, and the qualifier bided her time until she reached double break point at 3-2. Collins missed a service return to squander one chance, but another forehand winner put her up a break in the set once more.
That break would prove decisive, as both players were solid on serve for the remainder of the encounter. Unfortunately for Williams, she was unable to reach break point on Collins’ serve in a tense 4-2 game, and the Collins delivery ended up winning her the match two games later when Williams was unable to put a strong serve back into play on the qualifier’s second match point.