MELBOURNE, Australia - Danielle Collins always felt like she belonged on the biggest stages, even when she was a world away from them.
The World No.35 made her latest splash at Melbourne Park on Sunday, defeating a third seeded player in four rounds - No.2 seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber - to reach her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
This time last year, Collins was ranked outside the world's Top 150, having lost in the qualifying draw at the Australian Open.
A year later, she'll face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an all-unseeded last eight match-up for a coveted spot the final four of a Grand Slam.
"It's been an incredible experience. I'm so grateful to be here in Melbourne. I definitely played some tournaments in some strange places the first year that I turned pro. I'm really just grateful to be out here doing what I love and playing in front of a good crowd," she said.
"I think that, at the end of the day, tennis is tennis. Some of my most challenging matches were at 25Ks and 60Ks, playing Sachia Vickery in the finals after 25K, having it be a three-set match. I've faced some of my toughest matches there."
"I think the biggest thing is now I'm playing in bigger tournaments every week. I'm playing a full WTA schedule. Now, I'm just playing against bigger opponents that people are more familiar with."
A two-time NCAA champion in the American collegiate system, Collins' route to the professional ranks has been unique amongst her peers - a fact she expounded upon in the press room after beating Kerber.
"I think going to college helped me develop myself as a person. I really know who I am, the type of person I am, what I want, what I want to do with my life, what I want to do with my tennis," she said.
"I have other interests and passions aside from tennis. I'm able to relax a little bit more maybe than some other people because they've kind of just been doing tennis their whole life, haven't really ventured out much. For each their own. For me, I'm really happy with my decision. I think it was the best thing for me.
"I'm a really in-the-moment person, I'm always kind of just trying to -- there's no better time than now. I obviously wanted to play professionally. I think I knew I had the potential. My coaches certainly always encouraged me and told me that I was talented and athletic, I could be really, really great if I wanted to do that."
That self-described passion and desire also shines through on the tennis court, where the vocal Collins is unafraid to let fans in the stands - or her opponent - know exactly how she feels.
Upsets for both Collins and Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated Sloane Stephens in another midnight marathon this fortnight, ensures there will be an unseeded women's semifinalist in Melbourne for the fifth straight year.
And to get to the final four, Collins is ready to fight with her celebratory fistpumps just as much as she does with her forehand.
"I'm feisty. I love making it kind of a war. If somebody wants to get in my face on my unforced errors, I have no problem getting right back at them and making it a feisty match," Collins said.
"I love that, embrace it. I love when things get competitive...so, just part of the deal with me. Whether people are for me or against me, I'm not really fazed by it. I love it. Either way.
"Sometimes when people are all for me, it's nice to have the support, but sometimes I'm like, I hope somebody says something negative so I can prove them wrong."