By Sudipto Ganguly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Danielle Collins overcame a slow start to book a maiden Grand Slam semi-final spot at the Australian Open when the unheralded American rallied from a set down to overcome Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-5 6-1 on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Collins had not won a match in her previous five Grand Slam appearances but has now made it to the last four in her first main draw showing at Melbourne Park.
“My first time playing on Rod Laver and I didn’t even practise here before so this was quite the experience, I absolutely love it,” Collins said in her court-side interview.
“All the Australian fans have really made me feel at home here.”
In a first career meeting between the pair, Collins and Pavlyuchenkova were evenly matched in their ability to hit winners, but the American had greater control on the unforced errors that proved decisive.
Collins, who crushed second seed and triple Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, had 20 unforced errors in the match compared to her opponent’s 36.
She paid for an over-aggressive approach in the first set as 44th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova remained unflustered to break the American’s serve three times before taking the opener when her opponent sent a backhand wide.
Collins found her range in the second, converting her third set point to break Pavlyuchenkova and level the match, before the world number 35 bulldozed through the third set to wrap up victory in two hours and 16 minutes.
Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, has now failed to get past the quarter-final stage at Grand Slam events in five attempts.
Collins advances to play the winner of the match between Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova and local hope Ashleigh Barty, who is seeded 15th, for a place in Saturday’s final.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)