Class of 2016 alumna Danielle Collins fell to Australian native Ashleigh Barty in the final of the Australian Open Saturday morning. Collins, the No. 27 seed, dropped both sets, 3-6 and 6-7(2), to No. 1 seeded Barty in Melbourne.
Despite falling short in the final, Collins impressed many on the path to the title. She entered the tournament with 50-1 odds of prevailing, but quickly made the case for why she should be considered the No. 1 player in the US.
“Nobody would’ve ever thought I’d make it this far, and I’ve proven so many people wrong,” Collins said.
The former Cavalier made quick work of her opponents in the first and second rounds of the tournament, failing to lose a set. Collins was not deterred by two tightly contested battles in the third and fourth rounds.
After losing the first set in both rounds three and four, she rallied back against stiff opposition to sweep the remaining two sets of each match and storm her way into the quarterfinals. Collins was in peak form in the quarterfinal against Alizé Cornet of France, winning 7-5, 6-1 to advance to the semis.
Facing her toughest competition so far in the form of No. 7 seed Iga Świątek of Poland, Collins was resolute. Her relentless style of play broke down Świątek and resulted in an upset victory of 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinal, sending her to her first Grand Slam final.
“It is incredible to be on this stage, especially after all the health challenges,” Collins said after the victory. “I couldn’t be happier.”
This year’s results are a far cry from what occurred at the 2021 Australian Open for Collins. She had been suffering from arthritis as well as endometriosis, a condition that causes intense pain in the pelvis due to uterine lining growing outside the uterus. While practicing at last year’s Open, she collapsed in pain and sought medical treatment.
After having a large cyst removed, Collins returned to form, playing her best tennis since her days with the Cavaliers, in which she won two NCAA singles titles in three years. This sustained success brought her back to Melbourne a year later to face Barty for a chance to upset the best player in the world to earn a Grand Slam title.
Barty entered the match with a significant home-court advantage. The Ipswitch, Queensland native was competing to become the first Australian woman in 44 years to win the Australian Open.
With a supportive crowd behind her, Barty assertively took the first set 6-3. However, Collins battled as she had all tournament to take a threatening 5-1 lead in the second set. Unphased, Barty refused to let the match reach a third set and stormed back to tie it 6-6. Heading into the tiebreaker, Barty’s momentum proved to be too much, and she triumphed 7-2, earning the set and the match.
“First, I think I owe a big congratulations to [Ashleigh] on a phenomenal two weeks here,” Collins said while accepting the runner-up trophy.
Collins earned high praise from Barty in her victory speech as well, with Barty anticipating more matchups to come.
“I know that you’ll be fighting for many more of these in the future,” Barty said.
Collins was tearful in her speech, thanking those that believed in her on her unconventional path to success. Collins played collegiate tennis a full four years, earning her degree from Virginia before entering professional play. Defeating Świątek to reach the final made Collins the first woman to win an NCAA singles title and reach a Grand Slam final.
“I am honestly just lucky to be out here competing and to have gotten this far has been incredible,” Collins said.