After the Australian Open draw was announced last week, it was clear that world No 1 Iga Swiatek would face a tough journey, with several tough opponents in her section. Among all her potential challengers, Danielle Collins appeared to be the most formidable opponent in the first week.
Despite facing a formidable opponent known for their powerful shots, Swiatek impressively maintained control of her emotions and seized the opportunity to make a stunning comeback. Despite being down two breaks in the final set, Swiatek fought back and defeated Collins 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, advancing to the third round of the Australian Open.
“I had already arrived at the airport,” Swiatek remarked with a laugh. “I was determined to keep fighting until the end. I was aware that my opponent was playing flawlessly, but it would be difficult for anyone to maintain that level. I wanted to be prepared for when she made more mistakes.”
I simply wanted to persevere. I accomplished that in the end and I am immensely proud of myself for overcoming the challenge. I felt a sense of pride in my actions.
Although Swiatek is known for easily winning matches when she is playing well, learning to handle the intense pressure of a three-set match has been a gradual process. However, the 22-year-old from Poland is getting better at these moments, solidifying her potential as a future legendary player.
Ever since she joined the tour, Swiatek has struggled against opponents who play with an aggressive and daring style. These players aim to hit the ball early, attack her second serve, and put pressure on her from the baseline. One of the most successful in exploiting these vulnerabilities was Collins, who defeated Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 in the 2022 Australian Open semi-final exactly two years ago.
In the year following her first appearance in a Grand Slam final, Collins achieved her highest career ranking of No. 7. However, due to injuries and inconsistency in the 2023 season, she has since dropped to her current ranking of No. 62. Despite facing difficulties with her performance, Collins remains strong in her ability to make shots.
Despite Collins initially taking a 3-1 lead in the first set, Swiatek quickly bounced back. She displayed strong serving skills and impressive counterpunching, winning five out of the next six games to secure the set. In the second set, Swiatek maintained her momentum by breaking serve right away, putting her on track for a potential victory.
Instead, after losing a set and a break, Collins seemed to find her rhythm and her game started to improve. She aggressively went after the ball, taking every opportunity to strike first and dominating Swiatek’s second serve. With precise shots and powerful winners, Collins left Swiatek struggling to keep up.
Prior to the start of the last set, Swiatek took a brief break and returned with a thin brace on her left knee. However, this interruption did not disrupt Collins’ strong performance as she maintained her powerful shots from both her forehand and backhand, ultimately securing a double break at 4-1 and inching towards a win.
Swiatek stated, “I was in control and suddenly she picked up the pace, playing twice as fast. It threw me off for a few minutes and a few games. But I regrouped and realized that I needed to focus on myself.”
Despite the looming defeat, Swiatek maintained complete control. She effectively neutralized Collins’ second serve with consistently deep returns and had a higher percentage of first serves. During rallies, Swiatek’s consistent depth posed challenges for Collins. Most importantly, she did not allow herself to make any mistakes.
Collins succumbed to the pressure of facing the top player in the world. Despite being down 4-1, Swiatek dominated with five consecutive wins, ultimately securing the win with an impressive backhand shot against a drop shot after a intense and exhausting rally.
After processing her plan to escape, Swiatek sat down and covered her head with a towel. Despite facing defeat for three hours, she managed to hide any signs of frustration. However, in this moment, she let herself experience her emotions.
Upon emerging from underneath her towel, tears glistening in her eyes, she quickly wiped them away and strode off the court to ready herself for the next obstacle. Swiatek is set to take on Linda Noskova, a highly skilled teenage player from the Czech Republic, in the third round.