Danielle Collins holds firm against Elena Rybakina to win Miami Open

Danielle Collins holds firm against Elena Rybakina to win Miami Open

Right at the beginning of the season, Danielle Collins, a former Australian Open runner-up, casually revealed that this would be her final year as a professional tennis player. Unlike many others who struggle to move on, Collins has discussed her decision without anguish. Coming to terms with the end of her career has instead been freeing, allowing her to swing for the fences and ensure that she finishes with no regrets.

Having already started the year performing well, over the past two weeks Collins has played tennis of the highest quality, methodically hitting the best players in the world off the court. On Saturday Collins closed off one of the best working fortnights of her career by defeating Elena Rybakina, the fourth seed, 7-5, 6-3 to win the Miami Open – by far the biggest title of her career.

With her first WTA 1000 title, Collins is the lowest-ranked Miami Open champion at No 53. The 30-year-old is also the second-oldest first-time Miami Open champion, behind only Petra Kvitova, last year’s winner. Having started the year ranked No 71, Collins, a former No 7, will return to the top 30 at No 22.

Despite the significant gap in their rankings and their experience deep in the biggest tournaments, based on form and the quality of tennis that they had displayed Collins clearly entered the final with an enormous opportunity. While Rybakina had to grind through four tough three-set battles in her five matches, still searching for her best form, Collins had been utterly devastating. After losing the very first set of the tournament against Bernarda Pera, she tore through the draw without conceding more than five games in any other match until the final.

Early on in the final there was very little to separate the pair, with Rybakina typically dominant behind her enormous first serve. But Collins’s explosive, relentless ballstriking, particularly from her incredible two-handed backhand, allowed her to take control of the neutral rallies and to frequently overpower Rybakina, a feeling the Kazakh is not used to.

Danielle Collins on court in the Miami Open final.View image in fullscreen

At 5-5, after both players had held firm in their service games, Collins slammed down a searing backhand down-the-line winner when facing a break point. She then began to strike the ball with increasing freedom, and after holding serve she produced a dominant return game to break serve and take the set.

Throughout the second set, Collins was rewarded for her greater willingness to take control of the baseline and command the match on her terms, even as Rybakina continually threatened to turn the contest around. After an excruciating final game, with four match points, Collins finally closed out the biggest win of her career.

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Even though she had a difficult 2023, Collins’s reasons for retiring had little to do with her level on the court and she has been adamant that results will make no difference to her decision. In recent years, she has had numerous health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, and endometriosis, an incredibly painful disease in which tissues similar to the lining of the uterus grow outside of it. It is a credit to the American’s mental fortitude and talent that she has been able to continue competing at the highest level.

During her time as a professional tennis player, which was preceded by an incredibly successful college career, Collins has always had an outsized presence on the tour. She is extremely self-assured and does things her own way. Her shotmaking is utterly devastating when in full flow, particularly her supreme two-handed backhand, and the fire with which she plays – marked by her enduring fight and her notorious roars of “C’mon!” –are unforgettable. Now, in her final season, she has a signature achievement worthy of her abilities.