American Danielle Collins dismantled world No.2 Angelique Kerber 6-0 6-2 to clinch a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at Australian Open 2019.
The world No.35 hadn’t won a major main draw match until this week at Melbourne Park, but dissected the game of the second seed in 56 mesmerising minutes on Sunday afternoon.
The reward for the devastating display by Collins is a quarterfinal with either Sloane Stephens or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who duel later on Sunday evening.
“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 charge Kimberly Birrell on Friday, becoming only the eighth active WTA player to accumulate 100 Grand Slam main draw match wins.
However, Collins blasted out the blocks on Sunday, 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.
A piercing forehand arrowed down the line offered hope of recovery for Kerber, who was gifted the break by Collins firing two backhands off the mark.
Undeterred, the 25-year-old dragged Kerber side to side in a pulsating rally to cap it off with a deft drop shot to immediately restore parity.
The Kerber forehand was off-kilter, with one sinking into the middle of the net. Trouble still loomed, but a forehand cross-court passing shot claimed 2-2 and boosted the German’s morale.
It simply wasn’t enough. Collins clattered a brace of backhands past the despairing second seed 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.”
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.”