It was a bad day at the office for Angelique Kerber, who was unceremoniously dumped out of the Australian Open in just 56 minutes by Danielle Collins, the 25-year old product of American college tennis.
I stuck to my game plan. It clearly worked out well for me. Pretty much smooth sailing throughout the entire thing. I was just feeling really great. Danielle Collins
The German No 2 seed was dismantled, 6-0 6-2, in a surprisingly one-sided encounter.
The World No 35 is in her first major quarter-final, having not won a Grand Slam main draw match until this week at Melbourne Park, but she clinically dissected the game of the World No 2 on Sunday afternoon.
“I may not have won a Grand Slam match before this tournament, but I gotta tell you I think it’s going to keep on happening,” quipped Collins with a beaming smile after striking 29 winners in a standout victory. “I hope to have many more of these.”
“It’s been an incredible experience. I’m so grateful to be here in Melbourne. I definitely played some tournaments in some strange places the first year that I turned pro. I’m really just grateful to be out here doing what I love and playing in front of a good crowd.”
Wimbledon champion Kerber toasted her 31st birthday with an emphatic victory over Aussie Kimberly Birrell on Friday, becoming only the 8th active WTA player to accumulate 100 Grand Slam main draw match wins, but she struggled to explain how her Australian Open campaign came to a humiliating halt when tournament debutant Collins thrashed her in straight sets.
The normally unflappable German lost her cool on court as Collins dismantled her in less than an hour, and bristled afterwards when questioned about the loss.
“I can say it again, that she played really one of her best matches,” Kerber snapped.
“To be honest… I think she played good today. I think everything was good and she served good, she returns my serves good. So, yeah.”
Collins blasted out the blocks on Margaret Court Arena, with a bullet forehand down the line providing the platform for a 2-0 advantage.
“From the very first point, I showed her that I wasn’t going to let her into the match, that I was going to dictate the entire way through,” claimed the 25-year-old.
“I stuck to my game plan. It clearly worked out well for me. Pretty much smooth sailing throughout the entire thing. I was just feeling really great.”
The American rattled through another hold, but in stark contrast Kerber rippled the net with a double fault during another struggle.
With only four points in her favour, the three-time Grand Slam champion was quickly 0-4 down, and Collins launched up the court to swat away a backhand approach en route to posting another game on the board.
A lunging forehand return winner skimmed over the net post, followed by a sublime lob, which enabled the American to claim a perfect set against the Australian Open 2016 champion.
Kerber took herself off court for a toilet break, despite having only been on court for 20 minutes, and although the German got an early break in the second, it was only a brief halt of the Collins momentum.
The German’s normally rock-solid forehand was off-kilter, with one sinking into the middle of the net, and her timing was off.
Trouble still loomed and, although a forehand cross-court passing shot claimed 2-2 and boosted the German’s morale, it simply wasn’t enough, as Collins clattered a brace of backhands past the despairing Kerber for a 2-4 break lead.
A drop shot of pure perfection capped the final break, as Collins continued to break new ground in Melbourne.
“When I was at college my coaches always taught me to go out there, believe in my shots,” said Collins, a two-time NCAA singles champion whilst at the University of Virginia.
“I definitely think having that experience has helped me at the pro level, but all kudos to my coaching squad. They gave me the plan and I just executed it.”
Former US Open champion Stephens or World No 44 Pavlyuchenkova await in the last eight, and Collins is oozing with belief.
“I will definitely be watching tonight, we’ll come up with a good game plan,” she said. “I go out fearless, I’ve been working so hard my whole life. I just give it my all and I don’t think twice about it. Hopefully it will be another amazing match of tennis for me.”
Before this breakout major week in Melbourne, Collins has struggled to reap the rewards for hard work in the majors, but she was always assured it would happen one day.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised. I had some tough situations last year. Let’s face it, I played Wozniacki first round at the French. I played Mertens first round at Wimbledon.
“Sabalenka first round at the US Open. I lost to really good players. I had some opportunities in those matches to maybe have a different outcome,” explained Collins.
“You’re not going to bring your best tennis every day. I think just having faith, believing in what you’re doing. I work my butt off. There’s nothing I could have done more.
“Everybody gets their shot at the pie. Right now, I’m certainly getting mine. I’m doing very well. I’m just kind of focused on that.”
The second seed was one of the favourites to win the tournament and had eased through her opening matches, but she came unstuck against the 25-year-old American.
Kerber refused to make excuses for the lacklustre loss and paid tribute to her opponent’s performance.
“I was warming up like always. I did my things. I was feeling good, but you have sometimes days like this,” declared the three-time Grand Slam champion.
“It was completely not my day. I was not playing the tennis that I can play, I couldn’t find my rhythm.
“She played really well. I think she played one of her best matches, to be honest. She hit every ball in the court. She moves good. For me, not my day, not my good tennis, but credit to her, she played a good match.”
As Collins marches on, Kerber is left to ponder her bad day at the office.