CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The season opened poorly for Danielle Collins. She lost three of five matches Down Under, the last one to World No.1 Iga Swiatek. Afterward, when Collins announced she’d retire at the end of the season, some observers attributed it to a bad day at the office.

Collins qualified in Abu Dhabi but fell to No.4 Elena Rybakina in the second round. Her record was an iffy 3-4, but she reiterated plans to leave professional tennis on her own terms at the age of 30.

Two months later, Collins is in an unfathomably different place.

Surging to the top with back-to-back titles

The American has won 13 straight matches (26 of 28 sets) and back-to-back titles in Miami and, on Sunday, in Charleston. Collins has won 22 matches this year, equaling Swiatek and Rybakina for the most among Hologic WTA Tour players.

The most recent triumph came at the Credit One Charleston Open, an ecstatic, emphatic 6-2, 6-1 win over No.4 seed Daria Kasatkina. It was over in 77 minutes. Those 13 consecutive match-wins eclipse the best previous run of her career, when Collins sliced her way through the 2021 fields in Palermo and San Jose then won two more matches in Montreal.

If you missed any of Collins’ latest win, check it out here:

Collins cruises past Kasatkina in Charleston, wins second straight title

Navigating personal choices amid the best tennis of her life

Back in January, Collins first shared her news with reporters. "This is going to be my last season, actually, competing," Collins said in Melbourne. "I don’t really know exactly when, but this will be my last season and I’m really looking forward to that."

She explained she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease that makes it more difficult to conceive. "That’s a deeply personal situation," said Collins, who has said she’s looking forward to being a mother. "I’ve kind of explained that from time to time. I think it’s really interesting how in a lot of different situations I have had to kind of justify the reasons behind retirement.

"At the end of the day, this is my personal choice. This is so much more than just tennis and my career."

Still basking in the afterglow of that victory over Kasatkina, Collins was asked for the umpteenth time if she was rethinking the retirement decision. The answer is still no. "With my set of challenges, it’s a very personal decision," Collins said in her postmatch press conference. "And it’s great that I’ve made the decision that is best for me."

"I’m really happy that I can showcase my best tennis in these last couple of events, because I think that’s the way I want to go out. I know everyone has a different way of retiring and ending their career, but for me, I want to try to go out playing my best tennis."

Looking ahead with optimism

In early February, Collins was ranked in the 70s and harbored little chance of representing the United States at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. On Monday, she’ll drop in at No.15, which vaults her ahead of Madison Keys and Emma Navarro as the No.3 American. If she can stay within the Top 4 when the rankings come out after the French Open, that would be good enough to get her on the American squad.

Collins will next play in Madrid two weeks from now but said she’s looking forward to some downtime. "I am pretty boring," she acknowledged.

On the agenda -- “old lady stuff” -- playing with her dog, Mr. Q, reading books and walking in the neighborhood. "I’m so looking forward to this because I've only been at home for like five days since Christmas," Collins said. "I feel like a kid at spring break. I’m like, 'Whoo! A few weeks off from school.'"