Collins canters to Charleston WTA 500 title

Danielle Collins achieved a remarkable double on Sunday when she crushed Daria Kasatkina in the final of the Credit One Charleston Open in South Carolina to win both the Miami and Charleston titles in the same year on two different surfaces, hard courts and clay.

I'm really happy that I can showcase my best tennis in these last couple of events, because, I think, that's the way I want to go out. I want to go out with my best results. I know everyone has a different way of retiring, and ending their career, but, for me, I want to try to go out playing my best tennis. Danielle Collins

The last player to do so was fellow American Serena Williams in 2013, who also pulled off the feat in 2008.

It was also Collins’s 13th straight match in the Sunshine Swing, where she has won back-to-back titles over 3 weeks, her best streak since her 12-match run in 2021, which included victories in Palermo, Italy, and San Jose.

The 30-year old is showing no signs of slowing down as she heads into retirement later this season, and she overwhelmed the tired 4th-seeded Russian, 6-2 6-1, on the green clay surface in 77 minutes.

“I had a lot of matches in Miami, and I had a lot of matches here,” Collins said in her champions’ press conference. “I had, at one point in this tournament, two matches in one day, which is not easy to pull off. I don’t know if I’ve done that before as a professional. I feel like the last time I did that was like in 12-and-unders.

“So to be able to physically battle, and push myself to a new limit, gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve been so happy to be, obviously, playing at the level that I’ve been playing, but to be able to back it up two weeks in a row has just been fantastic.”

As a result, Collins now rises to No 15 in the world, having started February at 71 in the rankings.

Daria Kasatkina, who won Charleston in 2017, could not combat Danielle Collins on this occasion

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The 2022 Australian Open finalist completely outplayed Kasatkina, the World No 11, in winners, firing 37 to the Russians 10, winning 95.2% of her first serve points, and saving both of the break points she faced.

“I’m just trying to keep this train rolling,” Collins said after winning her 4th WTA title. “Really be myself out there, and not think too much about what’s next.”

No one has been more dominant the past two weeks than the ‘Danimal’, which is the nickname she coined when she signed up for Instagram out of college.

Amazingly, she has dropped just 1 set in her 13-match run, a second-set loss to 2023 Charleston winner Ons Jabeur.

A pivotal 12-minute game occurred early in the final, in which Collins withstood 8 deuces before converting her 4th break point with a backhand crosscourt winner to lead 2-0, and, from there, the American cruised through the opener, never facing a break point herself.

Spurred on by the enthusiastic home crowd, Collins did not let up in the second, and romped to a 4-0 lead in before Kasatkina garnered her first 2 break points of the day, but the American dominated with her forehand to swipe those chances away in a tricky hold for 5-0.

A bewildered Kasatkina, who had been taken the distance in 3 of her 4 matches to reach the final and was clearly fatigued, battled throughout to try to make an impact against the power and accuracy of Collins’s onslaught.

Playing with a heavily-wrapped right thigh, Kasatkina struggled with her serve, though, and could find no way to dig herself out of the holes she continually found herself in.

Although she was able to avoid the bagel, Collins simply marched on, and routinely served out the match to close it out with a volley at the net, pumping her fist as her face broke into a smile.

Collins is now the 4th unseeded player to win the Charleston title, joining Iva Majoli in 2002, Justine Henin in 2005, and Kasatkina herself, who won her maiden WTA singles title in Charleston in 2017, plus she is also keeping her winning streak alive heading into the European portion of the clay-court season.

“At first, I wanted to say I’ll miss you on tour, but, after this match I’m not sure,” Kasatkina said during the trophy ceremony. “To be honest, I’m going to miss you because you’re such a character. Your personality is amazing. Tennis is going to lose a lot after you’re done.”

Danielle Collins poses with her dog Quincy and partner Bryan Kipp after she won the singles final against Daria Kasatkina on Sunday

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Collins has dealt with painful endometriosis, illness and injuries throughout her career, but now is finding impeccable form as she heads into retirement.

“I’m really happy that I can showcase my best tennis in these last couple of events, because, I think, that’s the way I want to go out,” she said. “I want to go out with my best results.

“I know everyone has a different way of retiring, and ending their career, but, for me, I want to try to go out playing my best tennis.”

Collins never thought about cancelling her plans to play the WTA 500 event in South Carolina after her success at Miami, driving herself home to Tampa, before flying to Charleston.

She does not have a full-time coach, or an extensive team as some players travel with, but was supported on Sunday by her boyfriend, Bryan Kipp, in the stands, along with her beloved dog, Quincy, who she shouted out to the crowd after receiving the trophy.

“I guess, I’m just a low-maintenance gal,” she joked. “I better wrap this up, but he sees me.”

With 13 straight match-wins already under her belt, Collins’ current streak surpasses her previous 12-match win streak from 2021, which also spanned surfaces and included two straight titles but not in back-to-back weeks.

Danielle Collins poses with Quincy and Daria Kasatkina after the WTA 500 singles final in Charleston Open

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After her exploits in Miami and Charleston, Collins, a former World No 7, likely will be seeded at most, if not all, of her events for the rest of her career.

“This is going to be my last season, actually, competing,” Collins said back in January in Melbourne. “I don’t really know exactly when, but this will be my last season and I’m really looking forward to that.”

She explained that she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease.

“That’s a deeply personal situation,” said Collins, who has said she is looking forward to being a mother. “I’ve kind of explained that from time to time. I think it’s really interesting how in a lot of different situations I have had to, kind of, justify the reasons behind retirement.

“At the end of the day, this is my personal choice. This is so much more than just tennis and my career.”

Still basking in the afterglow of her victory over Kasatkina, Collins was asked yet again if she was rethinking the retirement decision, and she answered with an emphatic ‘no’.

“With my set of challenges, it’s a very personal decision,” Collins said in her post match press conference on Sunday. “And it’s great that I’ve made the decision that is best for me.

“I’m really happy that I can showcase my best tennis in these last couple of events, because I think that’s the way I want to go out. I know everyone has a different way of retiring and ending their career, but for me, I want to try to go out playing my best tennis.”

On Monday, she rises to No 15, ahead of Madison Keys and Emma Navarro as the No 3 American, and, if she can stay within the Top 4 when the rankings come out after the French Open, that would be good enough to get her on the American squad for the Paris Olympics.

Collins next plays in Madrid 2 weeks from now, but says she is looking forward to some downtime.

“I am pretty boring,” she acknowledged, admitting she likes playing with her dog, Quincy, reading books and walking in the neighbourhood. “I’m so looking forward to this because I’ve only been at home for, like, five days since Christmas.

“I feel like a kid at spring break. I’m like, ‘Whoo! A few weeks off from school’.

“Hopefully, when Madrid comes around, I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode!” ” Collins added with a smile.

Sloane Stephens & Ashlyn Krueger defeated Lyudmyla Kichenok & Nadiia Kichenok to win the doubles title in Charleston on Sunday

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Americans won all of the titles in South Carolina on Sunday, with wild-cards Ashlyn Krueger & Sloane Stephens outlasting Ukrainian sisters Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok, 1-6 6-3 [10-7], in the doubles final.

The 1 hour and 19 minute championship match was a milestone for both 2017 US Open singles champion Stephens and rising teenager Krueger, as this is the first WTA doubles title for each of the Americans.

The break-through is the culmination of a successful season for the Krueger/Stephens pairing.

In their first-ever event together, they reached the Brisbane quarter-finals in January, then made their first WTA 1000 quarter-final last week in Miami, and, together, they are now 8-3 on the season.



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