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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday March 29, 2024

For Danielle Collins, the dog days here finally here.

After reaching the final at the Miami Open, her biggest since she made a trip to the Australian Open final at the start of 2022, Collins says one of the highlights of this week’s run has been doing it with her dog by her side.

“I have never made a final of a tournament having my dog here,” she said. “That has had a positive impact, for sure. I'm learning that my weeks are better with Mr. Q. He's my son. Having my son here means a lot.”

In her final season on tour the 30-year-old has been keeping herself busy on the golf course on her off days – that’s something she likes to do when she can’t get in the water and surf.

It may seem that Collins is producing elevated tennis due to the fact that she’s living on borrowed time, with the end of her career coming in a matter of months, but in truth evolving into a champion on the tennis court has always been a work in progress for the American.

The two-time NCAA champion at the University talked about the art of the late bloom on Thursday night in Miami after defeating Ekaterina Alexandrova to reach the final.

“We have talked about in many press conferences,” she said. “I'm 30 but I haven't really played that long on tour. I remember when I made my first semis at Australian Open, there was some news, and they were like, ‘Oh, Danielle Collins never won a Grand Slam match before this. I was like, I have only played, like, three Grand Slams.”

In truth it was Collins’ sixth Grand Slam appearance – she had lost each of her first five matches at the majors, over a five-year span prior to that.

For Collins, the 2014 and 2016 NCAA champ, it did take time to adjust to the pro tour.

In fact, she says she is still adjusting, even now, at 30.

“I feel like you need time to get experience and you need time to learn about yourself, what works, what doesn't work,” she said. “There are so many different areas: physical, mental, emotional. Obviously with the physical challenges and the health stuff, that has been something that I have dealt with the majority of my career, and it hasn't been easy.

“But I have been able to figure out different ways to be able to work around it as best as I can. Doesn't make the problems go away. Doesn't always make the problems better, but being able to problem-solve a little bit and get creative in how I recover, how I prepare for matches, how I handle my off-days, how I handle training weeks, all of that, it's taken time.”

Now that a date with former Wimbledon chapion Rybakina looms on Sunday, Collins can put her progress to the test against one of the preeminent forces in the women's game. The Kazakh has won each of their last three meetings (and leads 3-1 lifetime over Collins) but those three meetings have all gone into a third set.

“I'm looking forward to playing Elena,” Collins said. “We have had a lot of great matches previously, some battles. That's what we play for as professional athletes, these close ones. Every time I have played her, it's neck and neck. These games are close, the points are close, they are long, challenging points. Big serves from both of us. Big returns, big groundstrokes. I think we will go out there and put on a great show and it will be a fun match.”