MELBOURNE, Australia - Coming into the Australian Open, 25-year-old American Danielle Collins had never won a Grand Slam match in her career, going 0-5 in her previous attempts.
Now, she stands one match away from reaching the final, with two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova awaiting in the next round.
What caused such a turnaround for Collins, a former two-time NCAA singles champion? According to her coach Mat Cloer of the USTA, it’s all about having the right mentality - on and off the court.
“I think just trying to keep everything as simple as possible, from the way that they’re trying to play tactically to what they’re doing off the court in the gym,” Cloer said, sitting down with Paul Annacone for Tennis Channel’s ‘Coaching in the Bigs’.
“So just keeping everything as simple as possible, thinking about the process of getting better each day as opposed to thinking about, ‘What do I have to do to get to the next round?’ It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to get a little better each day, keep everything as simple as possible, and just play point by point.’”
Collins’ impressive journey to the semifinals has seen her post stunning victories over tournament favorites, employing her aggressive, flat game with success against No.14 seed Julia Goerges, Sachia Vickery and No.19 seed Caroline Garcia. Collins made the tennis world sit up and take notice after her 6-0, 6-2 beatdown over World No.2 Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, before coming back from a set down to oust Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals.
According to Cloer, one of Collins’ biggest strengths is how well she can stick to her strategy and play her own brand of tennis, regardless of who is across the net.
“She loves to compete, she’s extremely feisty,” he told Tennis Channel. “She’s got a pretty darn good backhand - she can really rip that thing.
“And I think she kind of understands her game pretty well. She’s not going to try to play outside of what she owns, so to speak. But at the end of the day, she’s going to lay it on the line every day - she’s a tough gal.”
It’s a skill Collins developed during her collegiate tennis days at the University of Virginia, the American told press in Melbourne.
“I think when I was in college, my coaches did a really great job developing my game into being very versatile,” Collins said. “I can play offensive, I can play defensive, I can play kind of middle of the road. I can retrieve. I'm a very good athlete, so I'm confident in everything that I'm doing. Tactically, that's one of my strengths.”
Coer adds, “I think, at this stage in their careers, their games are pretty set. So how can we keep developing them is highly important, but also not overwhelming them.
“I think just keeping everything as simple as possible, that’s important for me. And obviously, you’ve got to have a great work ethic.”
Collins will face No.8 seed Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday at Rod Laver Arena. Her team in Melbourne includes the USTA’s Mat Cloer, full-time hitting partner-coach Stijn de Gier and IMG’s Yukata Nakamura, a strength, conditioning and performing coach.