Saturday, March 9, 2019 - Naomi Osaka stretches in the tunnel before her match against Kristina Mladenovic in the 2nd round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
Since her semifinal surge at the Australian Open in January, Danielle Collins has had to grow accustomed to her newfound fame.
“It definitely can be overwhelming,” said Collins, whose fiery (COME ON!!!) on-court dynamism was broadcast from Melbourne to Manhattan. “Sometimes it’s just weird when we are walking by and we hear these little voices, like, ‘Danielle! Danielle!’”
🗣🗣🗣🗣🗣 "COME ON"
— WTA (@WTA) March 5, 2019
The 25-year-old UVA grad, a two-time NCAA singles titlist, will surely grow accustomed to life in the public eye as she continues to post the kind of wins she did Down Under, which included a Round of 16, 6-0, 6-2 thrashing of world No. 2 and 2016 champ Angelique Kerber.
The Floridian isn’t the only upstart to struggle with their abrupt acclaim. Her third-round opponent Naomi Osaka, who captured her first career title in Indian Wells last year and has since gone on to bag two Grand Slams, is still adjusting.
“Random people stop me and want to take pictures,” she confided. “It usually shocks me, because it’s sometimes not when I’m anticipating it. Like, if I’m at the tournament site, then I’m cool with it, because I know it’s a tennis tournament. But if I’m just walking around in a mall or something, then it just catches me off-guard.”
“Indian Wells it’s a little bit more intimate compared to all the other tournaments,” continued Osaka. “I usually practice on Court 3, so there are people surrounding every section of the court. Usually it’s little kids. I don’t know why I have such a soft spot for little kids. But they’re really cute.”
Osaka and Collins will again be in the spotlight on Monday when they meet in the Round of 32 at the BNP Paribas Open. They’ve met just once before, with Osaka doling out a convincing 6-1, 6-0 beatdown in Beijing last fall.
Since the start of 2018, Osaka has risen from No. 68 to the top of the WTA charts, the quickest player to rise from No. 10 to No. 1 in WTA history. Earlier this year, she became the first woman since Jennifer Capriati (2001) to win her second major in a row after winning her first.
But Collins is a different player in 2019. She’s shown she can hit with the big girls. And she’s returning to a spot where she’s had some success. It was here, after all, in 2018 that the world No. 25 had her first real breakthrough. Collins dispatched then-14th-ranked Madison Keys en route to the Round of 16. She would go on the reach the semis of her next event, the Miami Open, as a qualifier, dispatching the likes of Venus Williams and Monica Puig.
“I’d definitely like to get another crack at Osaka based off of the last match we played,” said Collins. “There is no way it could go any worse for me. That’s really as bad as it can get in terms of the score and how quickly the match went. So it would be another great opportunity for me to go out and play against the No. 1 player in the world and showcase my game, and I’m here in the States where I love competing.”
Collins will get the opportunity on Monday evening, under the lights in Stadium 1.