Danielle Collins is on fire. She’s quitting tennis at the end of the year anyway.

0
66


MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — Danielle Collins wants to make one thing perfectly clear. She’s serious about this whole quitting tennis thing.

Really. 

The fiery 30-year-old Floridian — who has rolled into the final of the Miami Open, the closest thing she has to a home tournament on the tennis tour — has heard all the doubters. 

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion who has known and played against Collins since childhood, chalked it up to post-loss frustration when Collins first blurted out that she was done after this year following January’s heartbreaking three-set loss to Iga Swiatek in Australia. Jared Jacobs, the coach who was in Collins’ box for the last two Grand Slams, still doesn’t fully believe she will.

“We’ll see,” he says. 

Other friends on the tour approach with a shrug of their shoulders and ask, “Why?” — partly because they know, health permitting, how much better than them she can be.

None of it matters. Not the scare she gave the world No 1 Swiatek in Melbourne. Not her final run at a tournament just below the level of a Grand Slam, or the money she’s leaving on the table in likely future winnings and sponsorships. It’s all been great, but she’s done with it, or at least she will be at the end of the season. 


Collins says she will quit tennis at the end of the year (Shi Tang/Getty Images)

“I’ve been doing this a while,” she says, even though in relative terms, she hasn’t. She has only played professionally for two seasons longer than Coco Gauff, who is 10 years younger than she is.

Whatever. It sure feels to her like it’s been a while, and she’s got other goals, other things she wants to accomplish, other ways she wants to spend her time besides traveling the world, living out of hotel rooms, obsessing over the trajectory of a fuzzy yellow ball and whether her rheumatoid arthritis will allow her even to take the court the next day. She wants to start a family, sooner rather than later.

go-deeper

“I’ve loved what I’ve done and the opportunity and the doors it’s opened, but it’s not easy, and I am a homebody,” says Collins, an Australian Open finalist in 2022. “I’m a simple person. I like to water my plants and walk my dog and go for a coffee in the morning, and make sure the bed’s made. I got my special laundry detergent and have my little beauty stuff in the cabinets and, gosh, if I had to be at home all the time, every single day, I’d never get sick of it. I like reading my book. Doesn’t take a lot to make me happy.”

Surfing and yoga help. More of that is on the way. 

Now this is probably a good moment to point out that it would be a terrible idea for any of Collins’ upcoming opponents to mistake this for a lack of competitive fire in this moment or the rest of the season. She still rips the ball with abandon, especially on the backhand, playing that gas-pedal-to-the-floor style that can overwhelm opponents, as it did Caroline Garcia, the world No 23, in their quarterfinal on Wednesday. Collins took her apart in two clean sets, 6-3, 6-2, just days after Garcia had beaten both Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff.

On Thursday night she plowed on, smothering Ekaterina Alexandrova nearly from the beginning, beating her 6-3, 6-2 to make the finals of a 1,000 level tournament, just below the Grand Slams for the first time in her career. Alexandrova had beaten Swiatek in the round of 16. She will play Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the final on Saturday.

She was a set and a break down as Katie Volynets served for their match in Austin, Texas, last month. Her arthritis in her back had been so severe she had to make sure to toss the ball in front of her because she couldn’t arch backward on her serve.

No matter. She stormed back to win the second-set tiebreaker and the third set 6-0, deciding in what looked like the waning moments that since she was already out there in the gray chill, she might as well ride the adrenaline out of her pain and win.

“There’s very little you can do when a power player gets pissed,” Christo van Rensburg, Austin’s tournament director, said of Collins that day.


Collins, left, is in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

On Monday, Collins spent 89 minutes dismantling Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the round of 16, toppling her 6-3, 6-2 on the cozy Butch Buchholz Family Court at Hard Rock Stadium. There was a pack of rowdy Romanian fans sitting courtside, who cheered on Cirstea and razzed Collins throughout the late afternoon. 

When Collins wrapped up the final point of the hard-fought but ultimately one-sided win, she put her finger to her lips to shush them as she walked to the net for the handshake. She grabbed her bag and headed out of the stadium alone for the rest of her evening. Her box was empty. No parents. No coach. She’s flying solo. Keeping it simple, even though it’s likely her last home-state tournament, and her farewell season is certainly going a lot better at this point than other players (Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray) trying to manage a little glory in a final campaign. 

That’s sort of the way the dynamic has always been in the Collins family. Tennis is something she does, not who she is, and her parents would be just as proud of her if she was working behind a cash register, she insists. 

Her mother was a pre-school teacher and her father had a small landscaping business. Her father, who was mowing laws for a living until retiring last year at 84, used to wake up and hit balls with her before school, and get his friends to take her on at their local courts in St. Petersburg, Florida.

But the family couldn’t afford the best coaches or to have her travel around the country, much less internationally, during her teenage years. Tennis was about getting an education, which she did, graduating from the University of Virginia as a two-time NCAA champion.

When she told her parents she had an opportunity to turn professional, they suggested getting a graduate degree instead. She has won more than $7million in prize money, though never once felt like she was playing for anyone but herself.

Their reaction to her planned retirement? Great, they want grandchildren.

“They’re probably like, ‘It’s about friggin’ time’,” she says. 

Had she not been a tennis player, that probably would have happened sooner, for reasons of desire and health. After years of doctors largely ignoring her complaints about heavy periods and intense menstrual cramps, she finally found one who listened and correctly diagnosed endometriosis, a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus.

After undergoing surgery to remove the tissue, her doctor told her that getting pregnant might also help suppress the symptoms — but that didn’t really work with her career, and she kept playing. After October, that will no longer be a concern.

go-deeper

She still plans to travel, and has already made a start. After getting eliminated from the Australian Open, she and her boyfriend went hiking in Tasmania amid the giant swamp gum trees. They’re not as big as redwoods, but not far off. She’s got a trip to South Africa planned for December. 

Will she miss tennis?

Maybe? She’s the sort of pro who can enjoy the feel of her strings on the ball against a weekend warrior, but she’s jealous of the baseball, basketball and football players who travel on private and chartered jets, and have home games and long off-seasons. She wishes she had home matches. She doesn’t, even though she has tennis courts at her home and more down the street.    

“If the format of tennis was different, it would be a totally different story and I’d probably reconsider it,” she said of her looming retirement. “But the way that this sport works, it’s very hard.”

(Top photo: Frey/TPN/Getty Images)





Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here