College Spotlight: Danielle Collins, Virginia

September 30, 2014 09:59 AM

By Sally Milano,

University of Virginia junior Danielle Collins is coming off an outstanding sophomore season, in which she earned All-America honors and became the first player in Virginia history to win the NCAA singles title. Collins, who transferred to Virginia after her freshman year at Florida, helped lead the Cavaliers to their first Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles, as well as to their first NCAA quarterfinal appearance in school history. She was named All-ACC First Team and earned Most Valuable Player honors at the ACC Championship by going 2-0 in singles and 3-0 in doubles.

After winning the NCAA singles title, Collins received a wild card into the women's main draw at the US Open, where she faced Simona Halep in the opening round and extended the world No. 2 to three sets before falling, 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2. The 5-foot-9 right-hander from St. Petersburg, Fla., talks about her experience playing Halep at the US Open, recovering from wrist surgery she had over the summer, her dream job after tennis and more in the latest College Spotlight. Do you feel any added pressure entering this season having won the NCAA championship last year?

Danielle Collins: I don’t really feel any added pressure just because I’m in a good situation here. The worst thing that can happen is that I’ll still have a scholarship, so I don’t really put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t really think it’s important to do that because most of the time you end up hurting yourself when you do that. I want to help the team as much as I can, but at the end of the day, you can only do what you can do, and I’m still going to be working hard and hopefully will help my team win a national championship. That’s one of our goals and something we’d really like to accomplish, so that’s my primary focus right now and worrying a little bit less individually. Following your win at the NCAAs, you got a wild card into the main draw at the US Open and took No. 2 seed Simona Halep to three sets in the opening round. What was it like for you in that situation to play one of the top players in the world in Arthur Ashe Stadium – actually the first match of the 2014 tournament in Ashe?

Danielle Collins: It was incredible. I don’t think words can really describe the experience that I had there – playing in Arthur Ashe and [against] the No. 2 player in the world. I’ve obviously never played at that level before. It’s something I never experienced prior to walking into that stadium and going out there and playing against Simona Halep. It was amazing. It was a big confidence booster, obviously, going three sets with her, and it was something I could take a lot from. I was really happy and proud of myself for having had that experience and doing as well as I did. What was it like when you saw the draw and you saw that she was going to be your first-round opponent?

Danielle Collins: It was weird. I’ve never played at that level before. It was hard for me to process that I was playing the No. 2 girl in the world. That was just a weird concept to me, and it was kind of hard to grasp. I don’t know how to explain it. I went from playing college tennis, and then all of a sudden I got wrist surgery, and then I’m playing Simona Halep. Can you talk more about the surgery you had?

Danielle Collins: I had wrist surgery over the summer. It was a long, ongoing issue with my wrist. I had a bone fragment that had to be removed. It was something that had to be done. I had been playing through it with a lot of pain all through the season, and so unfortunately it did give me a little bit of a setback over the summer, but I was able to overcome that. Where are you now in your recovery? Are you still rehabbing it, or are you fully recovered?
Danielle Collins:
I’m still going through the rehabilitation process. It was something that had gotten better for a while. I didn’t have any pain, and then it started bothering me again. I think we jumped into things a little bit too fast, unfortunately, so we’re trying to get it back together again, and hopefully it’ll be feeling better pretty soon because I’d like to be able to compete sooner rather than later. You played your freshman year at Florida and then transferred to Virginia. What made you decide to switch schools? What was the transition like for you?
Danielle Collins:
Well, I was really unhappy my first year in Florida, and I wasn’t doing well with my tennis. I wasn’t really improving, so I didn’t really hesitate to transfer, especially because I wasn’t happy there and didn’t really feel like I was getting the best out of my ability with my tennis. It’s obviously worked out pretty well for me. I’m happy with my choice. So how did you decide upon Virginia? Did you consider many other places?

Danielle Collins: I considered a couple other schools. In high school, it came down to Florida, Georgia and Virginia. I couldn’t transfer to Georgia because Georgia was in the SEC, and I would have had to sit out a year, and I didn’t want to go there anyway. I knew the coaches here and really liked them, and I had a good relationship with them, so that was the main reason I came here. There’s so much that goes into the tennis in college and also a lot of classwork. Is it hard to balance the two?

Danielle Collins: For me it’s been really hard to balance the two. I’m trying to double major in media studies and drama, and I’m in the process of doing that right now, and I’m also trying to do really well with my tennis, so sometimes it’s kind of hard to balance, but luckily I have a good support system, good coaches, good people that are a part of our athletic staff, academic advisers that have been really helpful and are always there to help whenever needed, and so that really helps a lot. It makes things a lot easier. What do you want to do after college?

Danielle Collins: I would really like to be a sports reporter. I would really like to work for ESPN or FOX Sports or TBS one day, preferably doing college football, but I wouldn’t mind working in other sports. I like baseball, basketball, hockey – and tennis, obviously. Are you going to try to play tennis professionally, or will you focus on sports reporting after graduating?

Danielle Collins: I’m going to try to play for a little while and see how it goes. If I’m doing well with my tennis, then I’ll continue to do that, and if not, then I’ll probably try to get a job and start working. What do you enjoy most about college tennis?

Danielle Collins: Probably the team camaraderie aspect. It’s really fun being on a team and having a group of great girls to work with and practice with every day and especially having the same goals and being able to share all that with each other. What advice would you give to junior players who want to play in college?

Danielle Collins: I would say to really enjoy your junior experience as much as you can because once you start playing college tennis, it’s really fun, but it’s a lot different. You have a little bit more freedom when you’re playing junior tennis and it’s a developmental stage, and I think a lot of times people put so much pressure on themselves, whether it’s them individually or their parents, for rankings, playing tournament after tournament. And so I think it’s really important to keep things in [perspective] and try to just enjoy the ride.