Three years after making her first Grand Slam semifinal, Danielle Collins has returned to the final four at the Australian Open.
The No.27 seed from the United States defeated Alizé Cornet of France 7-5, 6-1 in a 1-hour and 28-minute quarterfinal affair on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.
Reflections from Collins: "I think my serving has gotten a lot stronger," Collins said in her post-match press conference. "I think my stamina on court has improved tremendously. I think just overall power and speed has improved. That's something that I focused so much on over the last couple years. I think that's probably the biggest difference to where I was, if I compare my semifinal run here in 2019.
"No matter who I'm going to play, they're going to be very tough competitors, very relentless, powerful, strong, everything you would expect in a semifinal.
"Last time I was here in the semifinals I had never done that before. I've made some deeper runs in tournaments since then. Hopefully I can carry the confidence that I've gained over the last couple years and be able to use that to my advantage."
Fast facts: Collins made her Grand Slam breakthrough at the 2019 Australian Open, when she charged into the semifinals ranked World No.35, just outside of the seedings. During that run, she picked up her first Top 5 win, defeating former champion Angelique Kerber in the round of 16.
The 28-year-old American has compiled a sterling win-loss record of late, going 31-7 since last July. At the start of that span, she built a 12-match winning streak, which included her first two WTA singles titles consecutively at Palermo (on clay) and San Jose (on hard court).
Collins, playing her first tournament of 2022, has an outside shot to make her Top 10 debut in the WTA singles rankings after the Australian Open, but she would need to reach the final to have a chance.
No.30 Danielle Collins into her 2nd major semifinal at #AusOpen (2019).— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 26, 2022
Last year, Collins underwent surgery for endometriosis in April.
The 28yo American is now 31-7 since last July.
More from Collins last summer: https://t.co/YCERgbpn10
The loss ends a career-best Grand Slam run for World No.61 Cornet. The former World No.11 defeated Simona Halep in the round of 16 on Monday to at last make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, in her 63rd career Grand Slam main draw.
The Frenchwoman shattered the record for most Grand Slam appearances before reaching a maiden quarterfinal. The record was previously held by Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, who reached the 2008 Wimbledon quarterfinals in her 45th major.
Cornet has played the last 60 Grand Slam events consecutively, and will break the all-time record for consecutive Grand Slam main draws if she contests all four majors this year. Ai Sugiyama of Japan currently holds that record, with 62 straight Grand Slam main draws.
Cornet: "I have eternal respect for the Grand Slam winner because it's such a long way. My God, I have the feeling I'm playing this tournament for a year. I'm so exhausted mentally, physically. When you go all the way & win these freaking seven matches, it's just huge.” #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/OBRYRpxQUg— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 26, 2022
Tale of the match: Collins, who won the NCAA women’s singles championship out of the University of Virginia in 2014 and 2016, had to recover from a set down in her two prior matches, but held on in a tough first set before cruising through the second set this time around.
The American had 28 winners to Cornet's 11 in the match. Although Collins also had 12 more unforced errors than the Frenchwoman, she still claimed a staggering 90 percent of points behind her first serve (28-of-31) and only dropped serve once.
Collins triumphed in a grueling 12-minute game to earn the first break of the day and lead 3-1, but Cornet’s guile kept her alive in the first set. The Frenchwoman broke back for 5-4 when Collins served for the set, and a forehand winner off the netcord gave Cornet a third straight game to level the opener at 5-5.
Signed, sealed, delivered 📦— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2022
Danielle Collins storms into her second #AusOpen semifinal with an emphatic 7-5 6-0 win over Alize Cornet. #AO2022
🎥: @wwos · @espn · #Eurosport · @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/M3O1cfl3vT
However, two aces and a marvelous backhand crosscourt winner earned Collins a key hold for 6-5, and the American garnered her first opportunities to notch the one-set lead in the subsequent game. After missing on her first two set points, a forehand winner gave Collins a third chance, which she took after a long forehand miscue by Cornet.
Collins romped to a 4-0 lead in the second set, then held on for 5-0, saving a break point with an ace in the process. Cornet pulled herself through a two-deuce game to get on the scoreboard at 5-1, but a series of superb forehands by Collins helped her close out the next game and book a second Australian Open semifinal.