By Tucker Verdi
Danielle Collins had a set point at 6-5 in the first. If she had won the point, her Cinderella run at the 2018 Miami Open might’ve continued.
Jelena Ostapenko knows a little something about Cinderella runs. Her unseeded run to the title at Roland Garros in 2017 – the first since 1933 – still resonates. But now she’s a top 5 player, and set point down, she continues to show that French Open win wasn’t a fluke. She and her aggressive play are here to stay.
She saved the set point, and won the match 7-6(1), 6-3.
“I think I’m calmer now, and also mentally I’m stronger now,” Ostapenko said of her recent improvement in her game. “Just more consistent and more confident and just going for shots sometimes and not afraid to miss it.”
This coming from a young player who hit 54 winners and 54 unforced errors to win her maiden Grand Slam. That was a three-setter and she was brand new to the big stage, no doubt nervous and inconsistent. Imagine a more confident and consistent Ostapenko, like the one we’re seeing now, with that winner total ticking up and that error total dropping down.
A truly daunting opponent, and Danielle Collins had to find that out the hard way.
For Ostapenko, this was her fifth match of this fortnight. For Collins, this was her eighth.
Collins had seemingly weathered it all, from surviving qualifying to a tough three-setter with Coco Vandeweghe to rallying from a set down in two consecutive matches to beating her idol Venus Williams. The 24-year-old didn’t grow up in tennis academies; she grew up on public courts challenging adults to matches.
Collins was ranked 117th in the world coming into the Miami Open. On Monday, she will be ranked 53rd. It’s a huge step for a player her took the untraditional route of playing collegiately, winning two national championships at the University of Virginia.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Ostapenko said of her matchup with Collins, “because I saw a couple of her matches this tournament and she was playing on a really high level.”
For now, Ostapenko is the one who powers forward into a final with American Sloane Stephens. With a win, the 20-year-old Latvian will rise to a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world.
Stephens and Ostapenko will take the court at 1:00 PM on Saturday, March 31st. Get your tickets for the Women's final here