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Home SPORT IN HER FIRST MATCH SINCE MAY, SIMONA HALEP RAN INTO A RED-HOT...

IN HER FIRST MATCH SINCE MAY, SIMONA HALEP RAN INTO A RED-HOT DANIELLE COLLINS

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DANIELLE COLLINS

DANIELLE COLLINS: The American, who has won two tournaments, kept her composure after a slow start and knocked out the former No. 1 in nearly three hours at the National Bank Open in Montreal.

Leading 1-0 in the third set against Simona Halep in Montreal on Wednesday, Danielle Collins had a good opportunity for a break point on a mid-range shot, but she hit it past. It was one of 42 errors the American would make that evening, and it cost her the game. What matters, however, is how she responded. She put her head down and went across the court to start the next point.

Collins, a self-described “Danimal,” is usually one of the greatest screamers in sports. And she really let her feelings out, uttering a loud “OH MY GOD!” after a missed backhand and a sarcastic “HEL-LO!” after Halep’s easy forehand serve. But for the most part, despite a slow start, despite 15 break points, despite 42 errors, Collins minded her own business and kept her anger to herself. That’s the kind of behavior you’d expect from someone who has won two straight tournaments and 14 of her last 15 matches.

In her match against Halep, Collins was playing the person she had never beaten and who completely outclassed her in the first set 6-2. The Romanian was playing her first match since May, and at first she looked like she had been shot out of a cannon. She was burning energy, dropping back to perform as many forehands as she could and chasing the taller, more powerful Collins from one corner to the other and back again.

Judging by their pedigree, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Halep is a former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, and Collins is the world No. 23. But it wasn’t exactly the usual moment for their meeting. While Halep was trying to shake off three months of rust, Collins took the court with more confidence than she had ever had. When you’ve won 14 of 15 matches, nothing bothers you, not even a 6-2 loss in the first set. Collins bided her time, waited for Halep’s second serve and kept shooting. At the beginning of the second set, she began to find her range, and from that point on, she was the one doing the hitting and Halep the running.

But nothing came easy for either tennis player, especially on serve. Each of the tennis players scored 22 break points and each had seven break points. Every time Halep missed her first serve, she was penalized for it. Twice when Collins reached game point on her serve, she committed a double fault and was subsequently broken. Despite the lack of flow or steady momentum, the match was full of griping and sharp shots and stubborn rivalry. Collins was moving her backhand across the court and Halep was reaching up and slam dunking from the forehand to the out.

Halep led by a break, 3-2 in the third game, when Collins took a long medical timeout because of what appeared to be a left hip or foot problem. She then returned to the court and won four of her last five games, winning 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 55 minutes. The final game, in which Collins went to match point five times and Halep saved four of them, was a fitting finale.

Afterward, Collins, who also won her first match this week in three sets, couldn’t bring herself to smile.

“It hurt a lot at the end today,” she said through tears, “and I was lucky to get through it.

A little luck, a little pain, a lot of confident swings and a sense of calm about it all: It will help you get 12 wins in a row. Collins will try, while her body cooperates, for her 13th win over American Jessica Pegula on Thursday night.

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