Danielle Collins competes against Naomi Osaka during their women's singles match at the 2022 Miami Open on March 29, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Things look a little different for Danielle Collins walking into Roland Garros this time around.
When she made her run to the quarterfinals in the 2020 tournament, her best career performance at the French Open, she did so as an unseeded player. Then 26 and in her fourth full year as a pro, the native of St. Petersburg, Florida, upset former world No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza and then Ons Jabeur before losing an all-American quarterfinal to Sofia Kenin.
“I’m still trying to figure out this tour thing,” Collins joked to NBC Sports following her upset of Jabeur to reach the quarters. “It’s a little bit different than my life before.”
Now going into this year’s French Open, which formally kicks off Sunday, the 28-year-old Collins is the top-ranked U.S. singles player at No. 9 in the world. In addition to her run to the quarters at Roland Garros in 2020, she’s also made two trips to the final four at the Australian Open — including to the final earlier this year.
With five American women and seven men seeded among the top 32, Collins comes into Paris with a strong record on clay and good form of late, and she can reasonably be described as the best hope to claim the first U.S. singles title at Roland Garros since Serena Williams in 2015.
Her route to get to this point has been unusual for high-level tennis players.
Rather than work her way up through the junior circuit and smaller tours to debut on the pro tour at a young age, Collins instead made a name for herself in college tennis. After starting out at Florida, Collins transferred to Virginia, where she won two national titles. She also won the Honda Sport Award for tennis as the nation’s top women’s collegiate player in 2016. It was shortly after that she turned pro and began making her way on tour.
Her breakthrough victory came in 2018 when she upset No. 8 Venus Williams — her tennis idol — in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open. She was the first qualifier to make the semis at the Miami Open, and it was her first time in the semis at a WTA event. With it, Collins was in the top 50 for the first time.
“I’m just starting to finally put all of the pieces together,” Collins said then to USA Today.
2019 saw that first Grand Slam semifinal in Melbourne, which included knocking off No. 2 Angelique Kerber in straight sets. But it was also a difficult year as Collins revealed her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, which had been causing her pain for some time.