Collins epitomises the ‘women supporting women’ movement
When Danielle Collins reached the Australian Open final in January, the American did not have an agent, a clothing sponsor or a coach.
Fast-forward three months and she has signed with IMG Tennis and is being represented by Serena Williams’ agent Jill Smoller, alongside Matt Fawcett.
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Smoller has nearly three decades of experience as an agent and has worked with a host of stars including Florence Griffith Joyner and Kevin Garnett, and has been a long-time pillar in Serena Williams’ camp.
Collins, who is a very vocal supporter of women in tennis and sport in general, was particularly interested in working with Smoller as one of the very few female agents in tennis and says it’s “an honour” to team up with her.
“That was one of the reasons I really wanted to work with her,” Collins told Eurosport ahead of her upcoming Madrid Open third round against Bianca Andreescu.
“After Australian Open, we kind of went down a list of different agents that I might be interested in working with and to be honest I wasn’t really interested in working with anyone but Jill and that is because of her character, her loyalty to her clients, and obviously her achievements over the years.
“I think all of the deals she’s negotiated for various athletes and entertainers it speaks for itself. She gets it from the tennis side, being a former player. Just really all of our values and goals that I have off the court really aligned well in working together, so it’s pretty exciting I have to say.”
World No.8 Collins will be facing former US Open champion Andreescu for the first time on Sunday.
Andreescu took a six-month break from the sport for mental health reasons before returning to action last week in Stuttgart.
The 21-year-old Canadian, who ranked as high as No.4 in the world in 2019 but is now down to 111, says she’s in a much better place and has newfound purpose and perspective.
Collins paid tribute to Andreescu, as well as Naomi Osaka, who also brought the conversation around mental health in tennis to the fore.
“I think in the last couple of years we’ve seen a lot more conversation around mental health and it’s been great to see more players speak up about it and be honest because I think from an outsider’s perspective, tennis is a very exciting, glamorous world we seem to be living in and it’s not always that way,” said the 28-year-old Collins.
“I think all of us have our things that we deal with. And I think any time people can be open and honest about what they’re going through it might help someone that’s really struggling.
“So I admire both of those women for prioritising that and being so willing to share their experience in such a genuine way. I admire her for that and certainly admire her for the game that she plays and the way she fights on court and the incredible athlete that she is and the achievements that she’s had. I think we’ll have a good battle against each other.”
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Leylah the Madridista
Rafael Nadal may have taken the honorary kick at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday but the Spanish star is not the only tennis player who is a die-hard Real Madrid fan.
Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez and her father/coach Jorge are both big supporters of Los Blancos and the US Open runner-up is hoping she’ll still be alive in the tournament when Real Madrid host Manchester City for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Fernandez has a multi-cultural heritage with her father coming from Ecuadorian descent and her mother having Filipino origins. The world No.20 is fluent in English, Spanish and French and is happy to be competing in Madrid, where she can connect with the Spanish-speaking crowd at the Caja Magica.
“Growing up, the number one thing is that my dad is a Real Madrid fan, so of course I was attracted to the soccer team as well.
"I’m also very, very honoured to be here in Madrid because that’s where not only the big football teams are, but it’s also where all the great champions played at and won tournaments,” said Fernandez, who faces Jil Teichmann in an all-lefty second round on Sunday.
“So it’s just like extra motivation for me to do well. Hopefully we’re still here by the end of the tournament so I can watch the soccer game.”
Fernandez followed the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals that saw City earn a narrow 4-3 win over Real Madrid and has faith her team will get the job done and advance to the final.
“It was a roller coaster. We were in my room watching on the iPad and were like, ‘Wow this is a great game’. It’s going to be very tough now for Manchester City to play here in Real Madrid, because Real Madrid are champions, they’ve won the Champions League several times and they know what they need to do,” said Fernandez.
“So it’s not going to be an easy match. I’m just excited to watch the second leg of that tie.”
Real Madrid players are frequent visitors every year at the Mutua Madrid Open and Fernandez is hoping she gets a chance to meet them if they attend a tennis match this week.
“That’s going to be a very great opportunity, hopefully they will come and hopefully I’ll be playing,” she added.
“I’m just going to be fan-girling the whole time if I have that opportunity.”
Asked who will be ‘fan-girling’ more, she or her father, Fernandez said with a laugh: “Honestly my dad but he’ll make me do suicides if I say that, so I’m just going to say me.”
Badosa opens up about home pressure
An emotional Paula Badosa spoke to reporters just a few minutes after falling to Simona Halep 6-3, 6-1 in her Madrid opener on Sunday.
Fresh off a heavy defeat, the Spaniard held back tears as she opened up about her early exit and the stressful build-up to her home tournament – a place where she wanted to perform her best, especially as the world No.2 and top seed of the draw.
“It's not the best moment right now. (I feel) quite bad. I don't know. It's tough to lose at home,” said the 24-year-old.
“It's been a tough week, as well. Very stressful, a lot of things. Tough draw, as well. But it goes how it goes, and I have to accept it.
“I think I need days off, because there are some tournaments that they seem like five, and this is the case right now. So, yeah, I think I will have to rest a little bit.”
Point of the day
This casual backhand flick of the wrist from Coco Gauff against Yulia Putintseva during the night session on Saturday is one for the highlights reel for sure. Especially on the back of the sprint she made to reach Putintseva’s drop shot.
Incredible athleticism from the 18-year-old American.
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