Danielle Collins: Fight of a Champion
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Some people think of tennis as more of a sport for privileged country-club members. But Danielle Collins certainly didn’t inherit her way into the WTA. Born into a blue-collar family in St. Petersburg, Florida, Collins has taken nothing for granted during her rise as a tennis star. She started playing tennis with her parents when she was three years old. Her ability earned her a position on the University of Virginia tennis team, where she won the NCAA Women’s Singles title in 2014 and 2016. After graduating with a degree in Media Studies, Collins joined the WTA, and is surging with a new career high ranking of 45 in the world. As she continues her meteoric rise, she took a few minutes to speak to AQ about her rapid ascent to the upper echelon of professional tennis stars.
Growing up, my mom was a preschool teacher and my father was a landscaper: I didn’t come from a super prestigious or wealthy family like a lot of people in the tennis world. My dad is 80 years old, and he still mows lawns every single day. I grew up in a very hardworking middle-class family. and I really had to go out there and make a name for myself. No one did any of the work for me.
When you start something, you need to finish it: I always knew I wanted to get a college degree. Especially with neither my dad nor my mom going to college, the opportunity to graduate college was always very special and important to me. There’s always been more to me than just being a tennis player. As a result of that mindset, plus my family, graduating was always a top priority. And most importantly, you have to be realistic with yourself and understand the value of having an education.
If I didn’t go pro, I’d want to go to law school: I’ve always had a passion for business and I always thought it would be helpful to have a law degree to help me navigate the business world. Had tennis not worked out, business is another passion of mine and that would have been a natural next step.
You have to get used to being independent: Travelling on your own is definitely the biggest change of pace from college tennis to the pros. You’re on the road at least three weeks out of the month. You also just have to get used to being in many different places and feeling like you have to be in multiple places at the same time.
I’ve never been to Madrid, Rome or Paris: This upcoming spring, being top 50 is definitely going to open up new experiences for me. I’m also lucky that clay happens to be my favorite surface. With my play, where it is and the new travel opportunities, I’m just looking forward to getting out there and playing on dirt.
Having a positive attitude on court is a must: When you play 25 or 30 tournaments in a year, it’s really easy to get down on yourself and be negative. The big thing with that is holding yourself accountable on your mental approach. You need to have a positive approach and keep your head up, even on your lousy days.
I grew up watching Venus and Serena Williams: When I first came on tour and saw them in the locker room, I’d be in awe and just be grateful to be breathing the same air as them. And now I’m able to get on the tennis court with them in a competitive setting and hang with them pretty well. It’s pretty cool to see how far I’ve come.
I’m very grateful that I get play tennis for a living: So many people would love to be in the shoes that I’m in, being a talented tennis player. You get to travel to so many unique places and meet so many cool people. I’m just really grateful for everything that has come my way and I remind myself of that everyday when I wake up.