After earning her first top 100 WTA win, former two-time NCAA D1 tennis singles champion Danielle Collins from the University of Virginia reassured her coaches, her fans and even herself that she can compete with the best of the best. No matter whether she's in the college spotlight, or on the grueling pro tour, Collins knows her drive and work ethic will carry her where she needs to go.
On Friday, August 19, Collins competed in the Connecticut Open, a premier WTA event held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. She defeated Stefanie Voegele, the No. 99 player on the WTA tour, to secure her first top-100 win and propel herself to the semi-finals of the qualifying rounds.
Collins faced No. 44 Annika Beck and fell 5-7, 5-7, but her performance proved once again to University of Virigina head women's coach Mark Guilbeau his expectations for Collins were spot on. Guilbeau recruited Collins as a sophomore after she spent a year at the University of Florida, and he began working with her on and off the court immediately after she secured her slot on the Virginia roster.
"She was the number two recruit out of junior tennis," Guilbeau said. "She did not play a lot her first year at Florida, and then she was one of the best players in college tennis. It's just remarkable."
Collins did not always look to the WTA tour as her main focus. She needed a few months to get acclimated to the indoor play her competition was so used to dealing with. After working through some injuries and acclimatizing to the style of play, Collins won 19 straight matches her sophomore season and made it to the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship. At this turning-point in her career, Collins and Coach Giulbeau discussed her potential tennis career after college.
Collins won a set off the number two women's player in the world, Simona Halep, in August 2014 at the U.S. Open and made it to the finals of another WTA 25K event; Collins proved herself from the very beginning.
Collins met Julia Elbaba, fellow Cavalier, on day one on campus in Charlottesville, and they have competed side-by-side ever since. Elbaba also traveled to play at the Connecticut Open. At UVA, Elbaba held the number one singles spot next to Collins at number two for the majority of their collegiate careers. Elbaba earned the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships her junior year, and she set the record for most singles wins at 133 her senior year, this 2015-2016 season.
Guilbeau knows he has his hands full as he prepares for the upcoming 2016-2017 with the lady Cavaliers, but he also plans to support and motivate his two former players as well. The current girls on the UVA team know the reputation Collins and Elbaba have, and they respect their accomplishments and their legacy.
"I want to support these ladies any way I can," Guilbeau said. "These players give the current team a reality of what college tennis is like, and it helps them to have an honest, direct look at top tennis."
Looking forward, Collins and Elbaba will continue competing on tour, as Collins sets her sights on the August 29 match in the main draw of the U.S. Open in New York. Collins earned her way into the draw after her 2016 NCAA DI singles title in May. Elbaba just finished play at the U.S. Open National Playoffs, as she fell in the semi-final round on Sunday, August 21 to the number two seed. With both lady Cavaliers posting impressive results last month, Guilbeau, along with the rest of the Virginia team, know they will be seeing Collins and Elbaba's names in the draws of many more WTA events in the near future.