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Danielle Collins: Tennis Is For Playing, Not Lessons

Danielle Collins: Tennis Is For Playing, Not Lessons

Florida native Danielle Collins is having a great run at the Miami Open. Reaching the final isn’t her best tournament result ever, of course, as she did reach the finals of the Australian Open in 2022, knocking out Iga Swiatek on the way. However, aside from that major achievement, this could be her second biggest career highlight.

I interviewed Collins briefly this week, and she talked at length about her experience playing tennis as a kid in the early mornings with her father, about her parents taking her to dozens of tournaments a year around Florida as a junior, and why she wouldn’t have her own kids taking tennis lesson after tennis lesson. On that latter point, it’s not that she’d be opposed to them playing tennis — it’s just that she thinks kids should be playing tennis more, and not spending so much time in feeding drills.

Source: Florida Tennis 

Collins actually did spend a lot of time training in a different way from other pro players, as she played against a lot of male adults on park courts as a little girl. She elaborated a bit on her experience doing that. “My dad played in some of the city leagues, and there were a lot of city league players, so I played against a lot of 4.0 and 4.5 and 5.0 men’s players.” For more perspective, I asked at what age that was, and she said, “Probably like 9 years old.” 9 years old! “And it’s amazing how many, like, grown adults signed up for playing against such a feisty small child. [...] Yeah, it’s a very unorthodox way.”

That wasn’t the extent of her unorthodox training, though. “My dad also had me playing with a wooden racket for about a year at one point. I think that was probably age 9 to 10 as well.” Remember that Collins is just 30 years old, so this would have been in 2003 or 2004. “I feel like that’s probably why I hit the ball so clean.” 

Source: Florida Tennis

Returning to her experience playing her dad’s colleagues as a young girl, I asked about how that helped her evolve as a player and if it contributed to her developing such a strong, wicked backhand — if that was maybe something she used and strengthened in order to beat bigger, stronger men as a 9-year-old girl. “Yeah, I mean a lot of times I would have to try to overpower the people that I was playing against — and that was hard to do, so it was challenging. I think that it definitely helped me. I don’t think that tennis needs to be a country club sport, and I don’t think that, um, … yeah, I mean even if I have kids and they want to play tennis, they’re not getting lessons like every few days. They’re not. Because that’s not how you get better. You don’t get better just through instruction — I’m sorry to, like, all the teaching pros that charge an arm and a leg — but you get better by learning, by experiencing, by playing other people as well. I feel like a lot of the kids, you know, they go out, there’s a lot of feeding involved, and a lot of technique, and really, like, tennis isn’t about all of that. It’s about trying to figure out how to win, be scrappy, be creative, and I think you get that through experience. So, I do think my dad did a lot of great stuff with me.”

Indeed. He must have. Collins can beat anybody on any given day. That has included Iga Swiatek at a grand slam, and that has included Bernarda Pera, Anastasia Potapova, Elina Avanesyan, Sorana Cirstea, Carolina Garcia, and Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Miami Open this year.

Stay tuned to our YouTube channel for some video footage of this conversation, and keep your eyes on the website and Florida Tennis Magazine for more insights from Collins.


Zachary Shahan has been a tennis fan since his favorites in the 1990s, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, seemed to be setting records that would never be broken. In the past 7 years, as his daughters have developed into masterful little tennis players, he has embedded himself in the Florida tennis scene of Bradenton and Sarasota. With coaches who grew up with, played doubles with, and are still friends with Francis Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz, and Michael Mmoh, and sharing courts with various IMG students and college players, Zach is always digging for a little more intel on the current happenings as well as deep history of ATP and WTA pros. Zach also does some live match commentary for popular YouTube tennis channel Game to Love. Top photo credit: Miami Open/Hard Rock Stadium.  

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