Just a year ago, Danielle Collins was playing in a WTA Oracle Challenger Series tournament in Newport Beach, having been eliminated in the third qualifying round of the Australian Open. Now, after a meteoric rise, the 25-year-old has a chance to become the first-ever Cavalier to play in a Grand Slam final. Tennis players often turn professional before they hit their 20s, but after high school, Collins decided to attend the University of Florida, playing tennis under four-time national champion coach Roland Thornqvist. However, after her freshman year, Collins decided to transfer to Virginia, stating in an interview with UVA Today last April that she admired Virginia’s outstanding academic and athletic spheres. This began a fruitful three years for the St. Petersburg, Florida native, during which she claimed NCAA singles championships in 2014 and 2016 — becoming the first Virginia women’s tennis player to win a national singles championship and the seventh woman of all time to claim two national championships. She rounded out her collegiate career with 125 career singles wins — 101 of which were as a Cavalier. Yet, Collins also stayed true to her desire to attend the University for its academic prowess. In her junior season, she was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll and graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s in media studies and a master’s degree in business. Upon entering the professional circuit, Collins found trouble cracking the top 100, playing in various Challenger tournaments to gain experience. She finally hit her stride in the 2018 Miami Open, defeating No. 8 Venus Williams and reaching the semifinals. From there she posted another semifinal appearance in the 2018 Silicon Valley Classic, reaching No. 35 in the world. Despite her strong year, however, Collins came into the 2019 Australian Open without a win in a Grand Slam match. This first win didn’t come easy, however, as Collins kicked off her time in Melbourne with a hard-fought first round win against No.14 Julia Goerges 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Collins then cruised through two straight-set wins before her fourth-round matchup against 2016 Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber. Regardless of her competitor’s credentials, the Virginia standout was unfazed, defeating Kerber 6-0, 6-2 in under an hour. Collins then moved onto the quarterfinals, defeating 2017 quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, ending the match with a convincing third set victory. This win sets Collins up for a semifinal date with No. 7 Petra Kvitova. Kvitová comes into the 2019 Australian Open with a previous semifinal appearance in 2012, as well as two Wimbledon championships to her name. Collins last played Kvitová at the 2019 Brisbane International on New Year’s Day, where she fell to the lefty 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (6-8), 3-6 in a tight contest. Collins plays Kvitová on Wednesday, Jan. 23, with the match time set for 10 p.m.. This match and other Australian Open matches can be found on ESPN or ESPN2.