Danielle Collins added her name to the growing list of 2021’s first-time WTA singles titlists with a victory at the Palermo Ladies Open.
The No.1 seed Collins of the United States moved past Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday to take home the singles championship trophy in Sicily.
"It’s given me so much self-confidence to finally win a tournament, because I’ve been on tour now for a couple of years, and that was one of my goals," Collins told the press after her win.
Collins, who was top-seeded at a WTA tournament for the first time, did not drop a set during the week. She becomes the 14th first-time singles champion on the WTA this season, hours after Maryna Zanevska became the 13th maiden titlist in Gdynia.
The 44th-ranked Collins had been 0-for-6 in tour-level semifinal matches before entering her first WTA singles final with a win over Zhang Shuai on Saturday. Collins took it another step further with her one-hour and 50-minute victory over World No.137 Ruse.
Collins’s victory also avenged a very recent loss to Ruse. The Romanian had defeated Collins in the Hamburg quarterfinals earlier this month, en route to her first WTA singles title as a qualifier.
Palermo was Ruse’s first event since her run to the Hamburg title, and she was aiming to claim her second straight title as a qualifier. But it was Collins who leveled their head-to-head with the Palermo win, ending Ruse’s 12-match winning streak.
In the hard-hitting affair, the pair was evenly matched on their second-service success rate, but Collins was ultimately sturdier behind her first serves. The American won 64 percent of those points, while Ruse could claim only 55 percent behind her first delivery.
"When I went on the court, I knew I was up against a tough opponent who’s been playing really well, who’s really been on a roll the last couple of weeks," Collins said. "I knew what I needed to do, but at times there were some moments where she was playing some really great tennis and it gave me some challenges.
"I had to fight for every single point, and I had to be really mentally engaged the entire way through. I needed to be on top of my tactics, to make technical adjustments along the way, so I was having to work through a bunch of different things throughout the match, with the challenges she was throwing my way."
A backhand winner down the line gave Ruse a break at love and a 3-2 lead in the opening frame, but Collins turned the first set around, breaking Ruse twice in the last three games. A stirring backhand return winner down the line on her third set point earned Collins the one-set lead.
Ruse needed a medical time-out at 2-2 in the second set, but soldiered on and fought off three break points at 3-2. But Collins was not to be denied, converting her fourth break point of that game with a backhand crosscourt winner that kissed the sideline.
At 5-2, another return winner gave Collins her first championship point, and the American converted that chance to enter the winner’s circle for the very first time.
"I’ve been improving, clearly, based on my results and being able to go longer with my stamina throughout the events," Collins said. "That was my main goal in playing all of the tournaments the last four weeks. It was just really rewarding to think about."
Earlier on Sunday, No.4 seeds Erin Routliffe of New Zealand and Kimberley Zimmermann of Belgium won the Palermo doubles title. They overcame the all-Russian tandem of Natela Dzalamidze and Kamilla Rakhimova, 7-6(5), 4-6, [10-4].
In a match that took nearly two hours, Routliffe and Zimmermann dominated the beginning and the end of the match-tiebreak to eke out the victory. They won three of their four matches during the week via a decisive match-tiebreak.
It is the first WTA title for both of the victors. Zimmermann was in her very first WTA final, while Routliffe had previously finished as a doubles runner-up at the 2018 Citi Open in Washington, D.C.