The first time Danielle Collins and Iga Swiatek faced each other on tour was in the quarterfinals of the Adelaide International tournament in Australia in February 2021. After losing the first set 3-6 and going behind 0-3 in the second, Collins retired from the match due to severe back pain. Swiatek went on to win the Adelaide International, capturing her second career title.
At the time, Collins was still unsure of the cause of her pain, which had become more frequent and more intense over time and which included severe abdominal and pelvic cramping. Multiple consultations and MRI scans were inconclusive.
A couple of months later, Collins had surgery performed to treat endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue that is meant to line the inside of the uterus begins to grow outside of the uterus, causing severe cramping and back pain. This was the second major health problem in the young tennis career of Collins, who had also been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis back in 2018.
Collins' surgery was successful and she returned to her tennis career that summer with a renewed fervor. In July 2021, Collins won her first career WTA title at the Palermo International. She followed that up with a second WTA title at the Silicon Valley Classic in August.
Now, a little less than a year after being forced to retire from that match at the Adelaide International, Collins returned to Australia and faced Iga Swiatek again, this time in the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Collins, a former two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Virginia, has had an incredible run at the Australian Open to reach the semifinals for the second time in her career. After defeating Caroline Dolehide and Ana Konjuh in the first and second rounds without dropping a set, Collins lost the first set and rallied to win comeback thrillers in back-to-back matches against Clara Tauson and No. 19 Elise Mertens. In the quarterfinals, Collins defeated Alizé Cornet in straight sets to advance to the semifinals, matching the deepest run at a Grand Slam event of her career.
It was only fitting that Collins meet Swiatek again in the semifinals and have a chance to close the arc of this incredible comeback story. The only person standing in the way of Collins' first-ever final appearance at a Grand Slam was the very opponent she was forced to retire against in Australia less than a year ago.
There would be no retirement this time around.
Facing the No. 7 seed and No. 9 ranked women's singles player in the world, Collins took down Swiatek in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, and advanced to the Australian Open final.
Collins had a dream start to the match, breaking Swiatek in both the first and third games and jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first set. Swiatek responded by winning the next two games, including a break of Collins' serve in game six. But, Collins fought right back and broke Swiatek's serve again to go up 5-2.
To her credit, Swiatek refused to concede the first set easily, breaking Collins again and holding serve to win the next two games and apply some serious pressure on Collins, as Swiatek then trailed by only one game at 4-5. Collins maintained her composure, delivering two aces in the next game and clinching the opening set 6-4.
After a back-and-forth first set, Collins was dominant in the second.
The No. 27 seed American once again began the set with breaks of Swiatek's serve in the first and third games and took a commanding 4-0 lead. Swiatek won just one point in the first three games of the set. She managed to take one game off of Collins on serve in game 5, but Collins served a pair of aces to take a strong grip on the semifinal match with a 5-1 lead.
Collins did not allow Swiatek back into the set this time around, breaking her serve in the next game to clinch the match 6-4, 6-1. Collins had seven aces in the match to just one for Swiatek and winners were 27-12 in favor of Collins.
With the victory, Collins becomes a Grand Slam finalist for the first time in her career. In order to win her first Grand Slam title, she will have to go through the No. 1 player in the world in Australian Ashleigh Barty, who will undoubtedly have the support of the home crowd when Barty and Collins meet in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday.