American Danielle Collins said she would treat Saturday’s Australian Open final against local favorite Ash Barty like a match at her local park in Florida. The 28-year-old, who has opted for the college tennis route in professional play, produced a superb performance to crush Poland’s Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinal.
Collins barely took a wrong foot and said afterwards that the hours spent on the park courts during the off-season helped her thrive on the biggest stages in the world. “During my off season, that was what I did every day. I played in the public park near my house, and most of the time I was in the field with my boyfriend and we were hitting on the machine at bullets,” she told reporters.
“Playing on the public courts is something that I enjoy so much. Even when I’m here and I play in these stadiums, I think back to all the special moments I had there. It’s really like a Zen time for me. sometimes thinking about playing in the park. I’m going to have to think about that a lot when I’m in the field with Ash.”
World number one Barty will be the overwhelming favorite to become the first local to win the Australian Open in 44 years, but Collins says she will be well prepared for the variety the top seed will bring to the court. “I think in my career I’ve done a good job training against people who have variety in their game,” she said. “I try to play with people who throw different punches at me that maybe I don’t get all the time.
“I played against a lot of people in the park who liked the sliced backhand.” So “in the zone” was Collins on Thursday that she didn’t sit for the changes and barely celebrated after reaching her first Grand Slam final.
She hopes she can achieve the same mental space on Saturday. “I think for me, when I have a very clear idea of my tactics and what I want to do, it’s easier for me to get there,” Collins said. “But then, you know, like any other athlete and I think all of us on tour, you know, we have days where we try to get in the zone and we can’t.
“Today it really worked in my favor and I was able to get there. I hope I have many more matches like this in the future. But you also have to be realistic and realize that you’re not going to play like that every time.”
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