No.27 seed Danielle Collins delivered a superb performance in the Australian Open semifinals to upset No.7 seed Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 and reach her first Grand Slam final.
Collins, whose only previous major semifinal appearance was also at the Australian Open, in 2019, has won her past 11 completed matches. Her only loss since Indian Wells last October was via retirement to Alison Riske in the Linz semifinals. She went unbeaten in Billie Jean King Cup Finals action in November, and the Australian Open is her first event of 2022.
This result is Collins' seventh career Top 10 win, and second on the Grand Slam stage following her fourth-round upset of Angelique Kerber at the 2019 Australian Open. Last year in Melbourne, Jennifer Brady became the first former women's college player to reach a Grand Slam final since Kathy Jordan in 1983. The University of Virginia graduate Collins makes it two consecutive college alumnae to contest the Australian Open title match.
Collins is now guaranteed to make her Top 10 debut next week, surpassing her previous career high of No.23, set in Jan. 2019. Last March, she underwent surgery to treat endometriosis; since returning, she has compiled a 36-10 record, including her first two WTA titles in Palermo and San Jose.
The fairytale run continues for Danielle Collins ✨— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2022
The American delivers an emphatic 6-4 6-1 victory to upset 7th seed Iga Swiatek and advance to her maiden Grand Slam final.
🎥: @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis#AusOpen • #AO2022 pic.twitter.com/NTeCwykXlE
Keys to the match: Collins' intent was clear from the first game, in which she pounded a succession of returns as hard and deep as she could: to overwhelm Swiatek with first-strike tennis. Throughout the match, Collins never wavered in her commitment to this, and her magnificent execution barely let up.
Collins, 28, slammed 27 winners, including seven off the return and seven aces, to only 13 unforced errors. Collins won 78% of her first-serve points and 86% when facing Swiatek's second serve.
Match management: Swiatek did not play a poor match, aside from her questionable decision to repeatedly serve into Collins' lethal backhand. Overwhelmed by Collins' lightning-fast start, the Pole quickly found herself down 4-0, but responded well as she attempted a first-set comeback.
A flashy forehand winner garnered one of the breaks back, and Swiatek seemed to have wrested more momentum in her favour when she saved three set points to break Collins again and reduce the deficit to 5-3. Collins had served two aces to reach double set point, but Swiatek had saved both in tremendous fashion - and after reaching her third set point, Collins double-faulted twice to concede the game.
But Collins shrugged off the blip emphatically, simply serving out the set at the second time of asking thanks to another pair of aces and a service winner. She broke Swiatek immediately in the second set with a gloriously angled backhand winner, and there was to be no further opening. Collins swatted a forehand return winner to reach match point, and converted her second with a backhand that was too hot for Swiatek to handle.
In Collins' words: "With the tactics and game plan that I had, getting off to the solid start that I had, I felt like I was really in the zone," she said afterwards. "There wasn't a lot getting in my way. I was in really good rhythm, hitting the ball really clean, moving the ball around well.
"When I have a really clear idea of my tactics and what I want to do, it's easier for me to get there. But then, just like any other athlete and I think all of us on tour, we have days where we try to get in the zone and we can't. Today it really worked in my favour, and I was able to get there.
"I'm hoping that I have many more matches like that in the future, but you also have to be realistic with yourself and realise that you're not going to play that way every single time. But I think it really helps when you can have a real clear roadmap to what you want to do on court and how you want to execute your game plan."
Swiatek on facing Collins: "I was prepared for her playing aggressive game, but I think that was the fastest ball I have ever played against on a match," she said afterwards. "For sure in practices I have hit maybe the same speed, but on matches it's different because players don't want to take that much risk. But it seemed for her that it wasn't even risky because she was playing it with control.
"So I am impressed, and huge respect to her because she's playing a great game. I'm just curious how it's gonna look like on the final, and I'm gonna for sure be watching and learning.
"I didn't accept losing, because that was hard, but I accepted that she can play a great match [...] I just feel respect for her game today, and I know that she played a perfect match and it happens. You know, I also can play a perfect match. It wasn't for sure today. It happened in past, and I hope it's gonna happen in future."
What's next: The formidable task of facing No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty awaits Collins in the final. She has lost to the Australian three times in four previous matches - but her one win was the most recent, a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the second round of Adelaide last year. Indeed, Collins is the last player to have defeated Barty on home soil.
Collins on facing variety on public courts: "Over the course of my career I have done a pretty good job of practicing against people who have variety in their game. I try to play with people that throw different shots at me that maybe I don't get all the time, just so that I'm constantly working on it and trying to get better at it.
"I played against a lot of people in the park that liked the slice backhand, a lot of people that have a one-handed backhand - which Ash [Barty] doesn't really have, but using the one-handed slice.
"It's funny you brought up the public parks, because in my off-season, that was what I was doing every day. I was playing at the public park close to my house, and most of the days I was on the court with my boyfriend and we were hitting on the ball machine. That can throw some different variety at me too sometimes.
"I love that you brought that up about the public courts, because that's something that I enjoy so much. Even when I'm here and playing in these stadiums, I think back to all the special moments that I have had there. It's really like a zen moment for me sometimes to think about playing in the park.
"Actually, at [Billie Jean King] Cup, when I was losing to Anastasia [Pavlyuchenkova], Kathy [Rinaldi] said, 'Alright, Danielle, just think about being at your park with your ball machine as a kid and just...' Yeah, I'm going to have to think about that a lot when I'm on court with Ash."