Danielle Collins’ trademark screams of “Come on!” and “Let’s go!” could be heard reverberating throughout the stifling hot grounds at Melbourne Park.
It was reminiscent of her breakthrough run at the Australian Open three years ago, but so much else has changed since then for the 28-year-old American.
Collins has re-introduced herself to the Australian crowd over the past week-and-a-half with her aggressive playing style, and she has made herself a contender for her first major title. On Wednesday, the woman known by the nickname “Danimal” advanced to the second major semifinal of her career with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Alize Cornet.
It was immediately clear the achievement was extra special.
“It feels incredible,” Collins said on court after the win. “I think especially after some of the health challenges I’ve had, and to be able to get back to this level and be able to compete the way I have been, and being able to be as physical as I have been, has been so rewarding.”
It’s been quite the journey for Collins to get back to the final four of a Grand Slam. “Health challenges,” might be the understatement of the year.
Collins began to experience debilitating pain as a result of endometriosis in early 2021 which made it difficult to function, let alone play high-level tennis.
“The agony that I experienced from my menstrual cycles and from the endometriosis is some of the worst pain I’ve ever had,” Collins said in an interview with Courtney Nguyen of the WTA in August. “It was scary at times.”
The pain was so severe she said she collapsed on the court during the 2021 Australian Open and required the attention of a doctor.
In April she needed emergency surgery to remove “a cyst the size of a tennis ball” from her ovary, as well as other “material” from her bowel and bladder. The procedure required four separate incisions to be made into her abdominal area. The recovery was challenging but she’s said she’s been mostly pain-free since.
She returned to the tour for the start of the French Open in June and reached the third round. Since then, she recorded the first two WTA titles of her career, at Palermo and the Silicon Valley Classic. She credited the surgery for her resurgence when speaking to the media earlier this week.
“It’s just been a lot more consistency throughout the year with just being able to get through workouts, be able to get through training sessions, and to not be dealing with the injuries that I was dealing with partly because of the endo,” Collins said.
Still, despite her success in 2021 and her drastically improved health, she was hardly seen as much of a threat to win the title entering the Australian Open this year. Having opted to skip all of the lead-in events, no one knew what to expect from the tournament’s No. 27 seed, and she flew largely under the radar.
Collins, a two-time NCAA champion during her time at Virginia, will first need to get past 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek or the upset-minded Kaia Kanepi on Thursday. She is one of two Americans in the semifinals, and could face the other (Madison Keys) in the final.
She’s expected to rise to a new career-high ranking of No. 14 after her quarterfinal victory, and would only get higher with another win — or two. When you consider everything she’s been through over the past year, it makes these accomplishments all the more impressive.