CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Less than 72 hours after she won the biggest title of her career, a letdown from Danielle Collins would have been entirely forgivable. But once again, the fiery American demonstrated she is not in the business of forgiveness.

On Tuesday afternoon, the freshly minted Miami Open champion throttled Paula Badosa 6-1, 6-4 at the Credit One Charleston Open. She’ll play No.2 seed Ons Jabeur in an appealing second-round match Wednesday.

“It’s not easy,” Collins said of the transition to clay. “Sunday, I did the five-hour drive back to my hometown, got to sleep in my own bed. Flew in here on Monday.

“Just getting the clay under my feet. I wasn’t going to miss this tournament, my last season.”

Collins, 30, has announced her retirement from tennis at season’s end -- and she seems determined to go out in a blaze.

“So, yeah,” Collins told reporters, “I’ve been busy.”

Busy? Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the blur of the past three days:

  • After lifting the trophy in Miami, Collins and her team, friends and some family enjoyed dinner at a Greek restaurant.
  • She had some obligations at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday morning, then made the five-hour drive home to north Florida with her dog Quincy and slept in her own bed.
  • She worked in a training session early Monday morning. Not up to a seven-hour drive to Charleston, Collins left Quincy behind and took a short flight to Charleston.
  • She got in a good run -- because, of course, she’s training for a marathon at year’s end -- attended a sponsor’s event with Jessica Pegula, did some errands and bought a few presents.
  • She woke up Tuesday in her Charleston hotel, ordered room service, took in the morning and, in her first match on clay since last year’s French Open, beat Badosa in straight sets.
  • “So, yeah,” Collins told reporters, “I’ve been busy.”

Collins is now 17-7 for the year, a total that moves her into a tie with Jelena Ostapenko for fifth among Hologic WTA Tour players.

It was another disappointment for Badosa, who is now 5-7. She missed the last six months of 2023 with a spinal stress fracture of the L4 vertebrae and has also dealt with calf and adductor injuries.

Collins had six break opportunities against Badosa -- and converted five of them.

Given their histories, believe it or not, this was a first-round match between unseeded players. Collins took home more than a million dollars from Miami and saw her ranking soar to No.22. Two years ago, after a run that included a quarterfinal appearance here, Badosa was ranked No.2 in the world.

Collins was sharper from the beginning, winning the first four games and, ultimately the first set in a scant 29 minutes. With Badosa serving at 0-3, Collins took a 118 mph first serve and hit a scalding backhand winner down the line. Even with the transition from hard courts to clay, Collins’ timing was exquisite. 

Gradually, Badosa found a rhythm and worked her way back into the second set. She had a break point to level it at 4-all, but Collins hit and big serve and eventually escaped after a smooth backhand winner into the open court.

There was a freakish moment, when a linesperson fainted with Badosa serving at 3-5. The medical staff was called, and the linesperson was removed on a stretcher, to copious applause. After a significant delay, play resumed. Collins ended it with an unreturnable serve outside.

“Everything that happened, my heart broke in half,” Collins said of the medical delay. “I almost started crying. Had to reset. Looks like he’s going to be OK, that’s the main thing.”

This is Collins’ third appearance in Charleston; she reached the quarterfinals in 2019. And while historically clay hasn’t been her best surface, it doesn’t seem to matter right now.

For now, Collins is living in the moment, riding the wave that seems to be endless.

Her press conference was interrupted by good friend and former player Alison Riske-Amritaj. Collins apologized for missing her husband’s birthday. Later, she was carrying on with another friend and former rival, Coco Vandeweghe.

“I mean, I’d rather go out with a bang, you know, than the other way,” Collins said. “I know everybody has a different way of ending their professional career, and for me I want to go out playing my best tennis.”

“It's amazing, the encouragement that I’ve been getting, and how many people want to keep seeing me play. But, I think, yeah, it’s time for me to peace out.”