Melbourne | Collins rallies past Pavlyuchenkova into semis
American Danielle Collins is the surprise of the Australian Open, seemingly to come out of nowhere to clinch a spot in the semi-finals in Melbourne.
Yeah that was my first time playing on Rod Laver Arena, I didn’t even practice here before, I absolutely loved it; all the Australian fans have made me feel so at home here. Danielle Collins
The little-known 25-year-old, who has mostly played on the US college circuit, grabbed the tennis world’s attention with a 6-0 6-2 drubbing of second seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.
She was unable to repeat that sizzling form against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but finished strongly in a feisty performance as her more experienced opponent wilted under pressure.
Collins, ranked 35 in the world, who has ousted three seeds on her way to the final four, on Tuesday afternoon was playing her first match ever on Rod Laver Arena, battling from behind to down Pavlyuchenkova, and continuing her dream debut run.
The American arrived at Melbourne Park never having won a match in the main draw of a Grand Slam, but recovered from a set down to win 2-6 7-5 6-1 in 2 hours and 16 minutes.
Both players were looking to make the last four at a major for the first time, but it was Collins who swept through the third set, clinching her 3rd match point when Pavlyuchenkova missed a forehand.
“Yeah that was my first time playing on Rod Laver Arena, I didn’t even practice here before,” Collins said on court after her match. “I absolutely loved it; all the Australian fans have made me feel so at home here.”
In a first career meeting between the two, Collins and Pavlyuchenkova were evenly matched in their ability to hit winners, but the American had greater control on the unforced errors that proved decisive, striking 20 unforced errors in the match compared to her opponent’s 36.
Both players were fearless in their striking of the ball, with explosive power off their groundstrokes cancelling out each other.
Pavlyuchenkova, who has previously reached the quarter-final in all four majors, set the tone with a hammered forehand down the line to clinch an instant opening break.
Collins had 5 break points in a lung-bursting second game, but Pavlyuchenkova escaped from a 17-minute hold to seize the first set initiative, holding on to make it 2-0, and prompting Collins to smash her racket to the ground in frustration.
The marathon game left the American temporarily drained, and Pavlyuchenkova took an easy break in the next, running away with the set after notching three breaks to one.
Collins paid for an over-aggressive approach as Pavlyuchenkova remained unflustered, and a scratchy backhand return winner chalked up the double break, before Collins finally notched up a game on the scoreboard after 32 minutes.
The Russian broke her three times, whipping up some vicious sliced serves beyond the reach of Collins to serve out a commanding opener, the American arguing with the umpire over a disputed line call as Pavlyuchenkova served out the set in 49 minutes.
Collins, also the conqueror of Auckland winner Julia Goerges, World No 19 Caroline Garcia at Australian Open 2019, immediately raised her level and swiftly built a 4-1 advantage in the next.
The Russian, however, pounced on some short balls to rocket a brace of backhands into the corners to help restore parity at 5-5.
Collins remained vocal as she renewed her attack, yelling in triumph as she found her range.
After a routine hold, Collins retrieved two smashes in a remarkable rally, and swatted away a backhand approach to wrestle back the momentum and force a deciding set for the semi-final berth.
Her persistence had paid off, as the American attacked with purpose, hitting her shots early with consummate ease.
This time it was Pavlyuchenkova who was rattled, receiving a warning for time wasting as she tried to compose herself before going down a double break.
Collins raced to 5-0 and left Pavlyuchenkova floundering at the net with a lob to bring up match point.
The Russian survived it, but it only delayed the inevitable and Collins sealed the win after 2 hours 16 minutes.
A hold to love with an ace secured a commanding seven-straight games in favour of Collins, before the World No 35 soared into the final four.
Collins advances to play the winner of the match between Czech 8th seed Petra Kvitova and local hope Ashleigh Barty, who is seeded 15th, for a place in Saturday’s final.
“For sure, that’s going to be a good match, I look forward to watching it,” said Collins, ahead of finding out her semi-final opponent.
Less than three years after she won the second NCAA singles championship for Virginia Cavaliers in 2016, Collins is playing in the semi-final of a major, which is quite a feat, having become the first graduated College player to reach the last four at Melbourne Park.
For Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, it is disappointment as she has now failed to get past the quarter-final stage at Grand Slam events in five attempts.