By Ashley Marshall/USOpenSeries.com
Danielle Collins is up to a career-high No. 35 in the world following an impressive season that has seen her turn in a string of impressive results on the American hard courts from Newport Beach to Miami. USOpenSeries.com spoke with the 24-year-old, who reached the final at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic and is playing the Connecticut Open in New Haven this week, about her breakout season.
USOpenSeries.com: After you cracked the Top 100 this spring after a deep run at Indian Wells, you said that Top 50 was the goal for the year. You’re No. 35 now. Has success happened a little quicker than even you expected?
Danielle Collins: Yeah, I think it’s obvious that I definitely got a lot of success that I hadn’t expected right away, but it’s a good problem to have.
USOpenSeries.com: What have you been doing differently that has led to this success?
Danielle Collins: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been doing anything differently. I think the only thing that’s different is I’m not playing $25Ks in the middle of nowhere and getting 50 points for winning seven matches. Now I’m playing these tournaments where I win one match and get 50 points and so I’m putting myself in a better position to keep getting a lot of points and continue to build my ranking . Before, it was a lot harder because I wasn’t getting into these big tournaments. So many people say that, “Oh, you’re 24 and you didn’t turn pro when you were 15 and crack the Top 100 by the time you were 18,” but the reality is I turned pro only two years ago and I think that to get this far at this point has been exceptional for me. Nobody’s getting into the Top 100 overnight. You have to go to a lot of places you don’t want to go and you lose a lot of money along the way. It’s a long process but you have to keep with it.
USOpenSeries.com: Your best results have been on American hard courts: Newport Beach, Indian Wells, Miami, San Jose. What is it about these courts that suits your game?
Danielle Collins: I think playing on gritty hard courts, I grew up playing on hard courts. That’s my most comfortable surface, clearly. It’s always nice playing in the States and playing in your home country where everybody speaks your language and everyone is cheering you on along the way.
USOpenSeries.org: Growing up with your father playing on hard courts in St. Petersburg, Fla., can you speak to how your love of tennis grew from a young age?
Danielle Collins: I think when I was growing up, I was in a very organic setting. Tennis was something that started off just for fun and we were close to a couple different public courts and I’d go over and hit against the wall and play against older people. I just ignored it. As I got better and better, my parents would take me to different places and different coaches to see what they could do with their little ball of energy, but the biggest thing was that I enjoyed it from a young age. I didn’t really care who I was playing against. You could put me on a court by myself and I’d hit serves for hours and hours.
USOpenSeries.org: What was the thought process in going to college instead of turning pro right away and why was college so important to you?
Danielle Collins: It’s so expensive to play tennis for a living. Unless you’re top 100, you barely break even with what you’re spending, so it was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to go to college, neither of my parents went to college, and I wanted a degree to fall back on. I was pretty bright growing up and confident in my abilities as a student. I felt like it was more in my wheelhouse to have a backup plan rather than just turn pro at a young age.
USOpenSeries.org: You’re playing at the Connecticut Open in New Haven this week then it’s the US Open. How excited are you?
Danielle Collins: Each year that I’ve been at the US Open it’s been a different experience. The first time I was in college and had a great match against Halep taking a set off her, but obviously I had no aspirations at that point to be turning pro because I was still finishing my degree. The second time, it was a lot different being done with school and playing as a professional, tend then last year playing as a qualifier totally different experience from two years before that. Now playing as a Top 35 player will be another different experience, but a lot of positives to take away from this year going into he US Open and being on my home soil. I’m excited to go there, it’s one of my favorite tournaments!
USOpenSeries.org: What are your expectations for the tournament and what does success look like?
Danielle Collins: We have some goals that we’re working on, but I’ll take it one match at a time. I’d love to get a first-round win. That’s going to be the first stepping stone. Right now I’m focusing on the Connecticut Open and we’ll see how I do there and hopefully I’ll get a good couple matches under my belt before I head off to New York.
USOpenSeries.org: How important is it to have all these high-level tournaments in the US Open Series to prepare you for the US Open?
Danielle Collins: It’s crucial. All of the top players want to be able to have these events to prepare and to get the matches and get comfortable for the American soil. It’s really nice for the American players because there are so many events where they can really put their name and face out there and fans can become more familiarized with then.
USOpenSeries.org: How hard is the transition from clay to grass to hard courts so quickly in succession from the French Open to the US Open?
Danielle Collins: I had two or three weeks to take a break after Wimbledon and I think the biggest thing is that switching surfaces isn’t the easiest thing for me to do, especially for me who as a junior and growing up never really played on grass, but it’s always a breath of fresh air to go home and play on your favorite surfaces.