WUHAN, China -- Danielle Collins of the United States earned her first-ever win at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Sunday, grinding out a 7-5, 7-6(5) first-round victory over compatriot and former World No.1 Venus Williams.
"Happy to have four tournaments to end the year, two in Asia and then two over in Europe," Collins said, after the all-American encounter concluded. "Looking to have a good strong finish to the season."
Collins had notched a win over seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams in their only previous meeting, which came at the 2018 Miami Open, and the World No.35 extended her undefeated record over her compatriot to 2-0 with her two-hour and four-minute win in Wuhan.
However, the match was anything but simple, as Collins had to fend off two set points at 5-4 in the opening frame before claiming that set. Collins then watched a 5-0 lead in the second set fully disappear, before steadying herself to wrap up a straight-set win in a tight tiebreak.
"I just tried to play point by point, not think too much about the future, just stay in the present and do the best that I could," said Collins, who ended the match with 32 winners, six more than Williams.
Williams claimed the prestigious title in Wuhan in 2015, defeating three Top 10 players en route, but the American legend, currently ranked World No.59, fell at the first hurdle in her first appearance in Wuhan since 2016. Williams finished the match with 26 winners and 39 unforced errors, and won only one-third of her second-service points.
Williams showed off vim and vigor early, as she tracked down a Collins dropshot which she returned for a winner to break for an initial 2-1 lead. Collins struck back immediately with a passing winner to level the set at 2-2, but Williams used solid service returns to break once more and lead 3-2.
The Williams lead held up to the point where she served for the set at 5-4. Miscues by Collins gave Williams two set points at that juncture, but Collins increased the depth of her shots to extend that game, eventually garnering two break points. On her second chance, Collins forced a netted error with a crosscourt backhand, and the set was suddenly tied again at 5-5.
Collins quickly found herself back in danger in the next game, but fired two forehand winners to stave off two break points, eventually holding for 6-5 with a backhand winner. Collins was rewarded for her fight, as Williams fired two double faults in the next game to give her opponent triple set point. Collins converted her first chance with a return winner to claim the one-set lead.
Collins went on a dominant spree, eventually winning nine games in a row en route to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Williams, though, slowly chipped away at that advantage, breaking Collins for 5-2, then fending off two match points with brave winners to hold for 5-3. In the following game, Williams broke open a rally with an error-forcing crosscourt groundstroke to get back on serve.
Williams won five straight games to pull to 5-5 before Collins got back on track. The duo advanced to the tiebreak, which was roughly level until Collins fired a forehand down the line, forcing a wide Williams error and grabbing two more match points at 6-4. At last, on her fourth match point overall, Collins slammed her third ace to close out a tricky victory.
Collins will now face the winner of the battle between Belarusians in the second round: defending champion and No.9 seed Aryna Sabalenka will face off against her countrywoman Aliaksandra Sasnovich, with the victor gaining the opportunity to play the 25-year-old American.
"I’ve played both of them, and I think both are incredible fighters and go out with full energy each match," said Collins. "It’s going to be interesting to see who wins, and I’m just looking forward to a good match."