Danimal Dominates!

The last few weeks have been all about American Danielle Collins. The self-styled ‘Danimal’ won the WTA 1000 in Miami and the WTA 500 in Charleston back to back, beating everyone with a dynamic, aggressive style of play that brings to mind the way she demolished a young Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open in 2022. To date, that was the biggest moment of her career, when she reached the final before being outfoxed by Ash Barty in what would prove to be Barty’s swansong.

The 30-year-old Collins is a fascinating character. For many years she has been best known by tennis fans for her aggression and fierceness on court. Another of her nicknames in Dan-yell, as her ‘C’MON’s are pretty legendary. She rarely smiles on court and is just all business stomping around the court. She is unapologetic about her aggression.

Collins made her name in college tennis where she was was a two-time NCAA champion. Unlike some players, she came from a modest background and the college route meant she did not turn professional until after she graduated. While she has always been someone who can play well, up until a few weeks ago, her only WTA titles were in 2021 when she went back to back with the WTA 250 title in Palermo and the WTA 250 in San Jose.

However, Collins career has been badly affected by injury. She has spoken out about her struggles with endmetriosis, a much misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition that affects around 1 in 10 women. She has also had back injuries and has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis

At the Australian Open in January 2024, she had a lead over Iga Swiatek in the final set but was unable to close the match, losing in the second round. After the match, Collins announced – to the surprise of many – that this would be her last year on the tour.

Whether that has freed her up, who knows but she swept through the field in Miami, beating top 5 player, Elena Rybakina in straight sets in the final. The WTA1000 title was her first in 3 years and the biggest of her career. Collins’ run was characterised by her non-nonesense power game. At her best, she just makes it look easy. Her ground strokes are powerful and accurate. Her focus and fierceness are quite intimidating to her opponents, who she has been kind of sweeping away!

In the Miami final, she was playing against someone in Rybakina who is one of the cleanest and hardest strikers of the ball. However, undeniably, Rybakina was not quite at her best. She had a string of withdrawals due to illness and had missed Indian Wells just 2 weeks before, where she was defending champion. Almost every match in Miami was a long three set battle for Rybakina, and in the final, she made a lot of uncharacteristic errors. A bit of weariness but also a slightly worrying inconsistency. She (of course) lost the final to Petra Kvitova last year, and while it remains a massive highlight for Kvitova-loving me, I can acknowledge that Rybakina didn’t play her very best tennis.

Rybakina had started 2024 so well, with an absolutely stunning defeat of Aryna Sabalenka in the Brisbane final, where she played flawlessly. She was probably favourite for the Australian Open at that point. However, her loss to Anna Blinkova in round 2 in Melbourne – in the most remarkable final set tie break ever was memorable – but for Rybakina, SO many chances missed!

However, not to take anything away from Danielle Collins, who just played very well.

And what was even more impressive, she did it all again in Charleston just a week later! She beat Paula Badosa, Ons Jabeur, Sloane Stephens, Elise Mertens, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina in the final. The only set dropped was to the ailing defending champion Ons Jabeur but after that she was barely stretched by her last four opponents.

Also of note, Collins dog Quincy is now surely the number 1 WTA pooch! She talked about him being her MVP in Miami and how she missed him in Charleston, only for her friends to bring him down for the final. Surely some of the best trophy photos ever!

A word also on the runner up Daria Kasatkina, or Dasha as she is known. A former champion here, Kasatkina was actually playing in her third final of the year, so she has had a pretty solid season so far. However, she has not won a title since August 2022, and the loss to Collins marks her fifth final loss in a row. Charleston was the site of Kasatkina’s very first WTA title in 2017 when she was still a teenager.

If you are WTA fan, Dasha and her girlfriend, former Olympic iceskater Natalia Zabiiako, has an absolutely must-see video blog on YouTube

Natasha does the filming and editing and it is truly impressive how quickly she gets these videos out to their YouTube channel. This one covering the Charleston tournament is a must-see, including excellent chats with Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka. For WTA fans, getting a glimpse into what life on tour is like is absolutely fascinating.

Next stop, the European clay. Indoors in Stuttgart then Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Hope you have got plenty of clean socks ladies!

By Kvittycat53

WTA tennis fan, especially Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova, Kateřina Siniaková

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