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By Alberto Amalfi | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Danielle Collins

Danielle Collins powered past Naomi Osaka to set another high stakes clash with Elena Rybakina in Abu Dhabi.

Photo credit: Mubadala Abu Dhabi Facebook

The 2024 season is Danielle Collins' farewell tour.

The feisty Collins continues to pump up the party taking down Grand Slam champions.

More: Richard Evans Q&A

Qualifier Collins surged through nine straight games dismissing Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-0 at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open today.

In a showdown between aggressive power players, Collins frequently fired the last word with first first strikes.

Nearly untouchable on first serve, Collins won 20 of 22 first-serve points in the first set.

Overall, the former NCAA champion served 57 percent, won 30 of 35 first-serve points and saved all six break points she faced.

Collins set up a blockbuster round of 16 showdown vs. 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

"At the Australian Open a Grand Slam champion first round, second round and here," Collins said in her on-court interview afterward. "I knew what to expect against Naomi. I know she's been out for a little while so she's still coming back.

"I just kind of had to lean into my tactics and rely on that and play my game."

Last month, the 29-year-old Collins announced this would be her final season on the WTA Tour. Collins is playing like a woman committed to going out with a bang.

At the Australian Open last month, Collins conquered three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in her opener then nearly knocked off world No. 1 Iga Swiatek before bowing 4-6, 6-3, 4-6.

Facing a Grand Slam singles or doubles champion for the fourth consecutive main-draw match, Collins dotted all areas of the service box against Osaka today.

Playing just her fourth match since returning to the Tour from maternity leave, Osaka won 12 of her first 14 points on serve and was hitting the ball solidly.

Former world No. 1 Osaka opened a 5-4 lead, but began struggling to land first serves and showed inactivity-induced rust sometimes forcing shots that strayed wide of the lines and a few times looking unprepared when Collins cracked deep returns off snapping serves.

After building that 5-4 lead, Osaka did not win another game.

The four-time Grand Slam champion dropped serve as Collins opened a 6-5 lead. A tenacious Collins converted her fourth set point to snatch the opening set then steamrolled through the second set. 

"I think just mixing the targets well and going through the visualization that we have to do as athletes [was key]," Collins said. "This is probably one of the better matches that I've served this year. I've been working on that, just trying to mix the targets and keep going after it."

In her farewell season to the pro tour, Collins clearly has much more left to give on court.

"I still feel like I'm in good form even though this is my last year," Collins said. "But you know I feel like I kind of needed an end date. I've really enjoyed my time on tour and had a lot of fun and gotten to have some amazing experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

"But right now, it's not over yet. I'm still competing and battling and working at it. I still have some goals that I want to accomplish, but it was nice to have a little bit of an end date."

It was a good day for qualifiers.

British qualifier Heather Watson served 71 percent and saved four of five break points upsetting ninth-seeded Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 7-5.

World No. 65 Watson will play 60th-ranked Spaniard Cristina Bucsa with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals against the winner of the Collins vs. Rybakina round of 16 match. 

Hard-hitting Liudmila Samsonova stormed through eight straight games overwhelming Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1.

The No. 8-seeded Samsonova won 18 of 22 first-serve points in the victory.  


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