Danielle Collins talked about a dream, tried to make it real. She shocked the world to make it real, effectively. Collins completely outpaced Venus Williams, appearing in her 13th Miami quarter-final, 6-2 6-3. Collins, never gone thus far in a WTA tournament, became the first qualifier to reach the semifinals at Miami Open.
It takes a leap of faith, as Bruce Springsteen sang, to get things going. As he suggested, she showed some guts and trusted her heart. She didn't have enough money to travel the world and the seven seas when she was a girl.
She graduated. She found her place. She never let anyone made her feel like she didn't deserve what she wanted. Now she made history and will rise to No.53 or better next week, 40 spots higher than her actual career-high rank.
In the first all-American quarter-final in Miami since 2005, when Venus faced Serena, Collins sprinted and build an immediate 3-0 lead. Used to play on big stages during her NCAA years Collins, a graduate of the University of Virginia in Media studies, looked self-assured and perfectly confident on her backhand in her maiden meeting against the older of the Williams' sisters.
Collins, the only player remaining without a WTA title to her name, appearing in her first quarterfinal at this level, grew playing tennis with older league players in public courts or hitting "against the wall as my mom jogged around" as she confessed to Courtney Nguyen in an interview published on the WTA website.
The self-taught American needed "to figure things out on my own and be resourceful because my parents didn't have the money". It made her tougher, even more competitive and she showed all this spirit in a brilliant first set.
One of two unseeded quarterfinalists, she ferociously took the initiative from the baseline. She played three deciding sets en route to her maiden tour quarter-finals, most of any player in the tournament, but her quickness wasn't bothered on-court.
Venus needed a leap of faith and a slice of luck in the sixth game when, down break point, she hit a slice backhand that became unreachable after a tricky deflection on the top of the net. Collins laughed, but she who laughs last laughs best.
Collins, twice NCAA champion, delivered massive backhands and painted the second of her clinical lob on that side to claim the second break and the opening set with 7 winners to 10 and, above all, 11 unforced errors to 17.
Venus grew teeth in the second, despite Collins drilled another perfect down-the-line backhand winner. Williams reached a breakpoint than her younger countrywoman saved placing a flat ace from the ad side and another to seal th fourth out of five deuce games played so far in the match.
Collins, who forced Simona Halep to a decider on her WTA debut at 2014 Us Open, spent the last season, her first full year on tour, gaining experience on the ITF Circuit. Ready to explode, she gained two break points in the next game thanks to Venus' fourth double fault and clinched it converting the second chance drilling a flashy down the line forehand winner.
Williams, the oldest quarter-finalist, recovered from 5-3 down in the final set and saved 3 match points against Bertens in the third-round, before beating defending champion and 2017 conqueror Konta in three sets. Evidently fatigued, she struggled to counter her opponent's powerful groundstrokes, to change pace using more back-spin to have more time to put her feet inside the baseline, or a chopped backhand to move Collins out of her comfort zone.
However, she fiercely battled and immediately broke back to 1-2 as Collins hit long. Williams held to 2-2 after her most assertive service game of the match then, at the next changeover, Collins asked her coach Pat Harrison, Ryan's and Christian's father, to come on-court.
She remained incredibly composed in the tighter games while Venus became more conservative, worked her strokes not to lose control but in the end her unforced error tally dangerously grew. Collins reinforced her role of tournament leader for 2nd serve percentage and service points won, with her constant, suffocating pressure from the back.
When she broke to move 4-2 up, the contest was virtually over. Venus, completely helpless, lacked enough speed to turn defense into offense and her confidence vanished. So Collins collected her eighth and most important WTA main draw victory ever.
In Miami, dreams are her reality.