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Collins ready for “adverse” crowd in final against Barty: “I love playing with energy, whether it’s for me or against me”

The 28-year-old says her experience of college tennis, playing in front of raucous crowds, could help when she plays Australia’s Ash Barty in her first Grand Slam final

Danielle Collins backhand Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

Danielle Collins will play the biggest match of her life at Melbourne Park on Saturday when she takes on world No 1 and home favourite Ash Barty in her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open.

At 28, the American has overcome plenty of adversity in her life to get to this point. Having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2019, she had emergency surgery for endometriosis in April 2021.

Faced with the likelihood of a hostile crowd when she faces Barty, who will be trying to become the first Australian to win their home title since Chris O’Neil in 1978, Collins said her experiences at college in the United States, where she played in front of some raucous crowds, would help her handle things if , as seems likely, all the cheering goes one way.

“I sure hope so,” she said. ” You know, I think in college you get used to having an adverse crowd quite often. I always enjoyed it. I love playing with energy, whether it’s for me, against me, neutral. I just love hearing people and having that fun energy. So I hope that it’s prepared me well, but we’ll find out. This is going to be a little bit bigger stadium than some of the college matches I competed in, but just going to try to do the best that I can and embrace every moment.”

Enormously popular all over the world, Barty is already a hero to Australian crowds and will go into the match as a big favourite to win her third Grand Slam title, having won in Paris in 2019 and at Wimbledon last summer. Collins, who routed Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals, said playing in front of full crowds, after the difficulties of Covid-19, was a pleasure, no matter who the fans were supporting.

“I feel like I’m just really grateful to be able to see faces in the crowd again and to see people getting fired up, seeing positive energy, hearing people’s voices,” she said. “That’s something that I really thrive in, whether I have a full crowd going for me or whether I have the opposite or somewhere in the middle. I really just love the energy. I think that’s what all professional athletes play for.

“So I think I’m just really excited to go out there and compete. It was kind of relieving today when I saw Ash and Madison (Keys) play, and it looked like there were more spectators in the crowd than a couple days before. Yeah, just excited to go out there and do my best. I realise that there is going to be a lot of people supporting Ash. It’s all in good spirit, so…”

Collins, seeded 27th in Melbourne, hit 27 winners in her 6-4, 6-1 win over seventh seed Swiatek and said she would be ready for whatever Barty throws at her.

“I think every time we played we have battled, and they have been some really fun matches,” she said. “Even the matches that I have lost have been some of my most memorable moments on court because of the way we were battling and going back and forth.

“Something I really admire about Ash’s game is her variety, you know, playing a different game style than pretty much all of the players on tour. There is not too many that use the slice backhand the way that she does, and, you know, have the big serve the way that she does.

“I think when I go out against her, we’re going to have another battle hopefully and put on a good show for everyone. I’m going to have to kind of look back at some of the matches that we have played in the past and sit down and kind of think about what worked well and maybe some of the things that didn’t work as well and just try to come up with the best game plan possible.”

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