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Danielle Collins wins Miami Open on her final try, topping Elena Rybakina in straight sets

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Miami Open Tennis
Danielle Collins, left, and Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, right, pose with their trophies after Collins won the women's singles final of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Lynne Sladky / AP

Danielle Collins had the perfect send-off at her final Miami Open, beating Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to capture the title in her home state before an adoring crowd that included Andre Agassi and Martina Navratilova.

The 30-year-old Collins announced at the Australian Open that this season would be her last because she's suffering from endometriosis, a painful ailment that affects the uterus.

On her fourth match point, Collins hit a backhand crosscourt winner, then bent over for 10 seconds without moving.

"That game took a lot out of me and Elena was pushing me all around the court," Collins said. "At the end I was just like, 'Thank God.' It all caught up to me."

Collins was teary-eyed during the on-court trophy ceremony.

"To the fans, I've played a lot of tennis, a few finals, and nothing close to this," Collins said. "In my home state, to come out here in front of thousands of my best friends pushing me to get over this hurdle, I was getting very emotional. It was an incredible environment. I've never experienced anything like it."

Ranked No. 53 and unseeded, Collins was animated throughout the two-hour match against the fourth-ranked Rybakina, pumping her fist and staring up at the crowd that featured a big American flag in the third row. It was too much for the ragged Rybakina, who hit several backhands long.

Miami Open Tennis
Danielle Collins can't get to a ball hit by Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, during the women's singles final of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Lynne Sladky / AP

It was the third career title and first since San Jose in 2021 for Collins, who became the lowest-ranked women's champion at Miami. She leaves with $1.1 million in prize money and will move up to 22nd in the rankings.

Collins said her impending retirement has motivated her to win more titles. This was the biggest of her career and her first in a Masters 1000-level event.

"I feel this tournament is the most centered I've been," she said. "It sounds a little yoga, hippy-dippy but I think about that stuff a lot."

Collins, who won NCAA singles titles at Virginia in 2014 and 2016, had never had Agassi attend one of her matches.

"Andre was my (service) return idol," Collins said. "I can't tell you how much footage I've watched of Andre. When I saw him out here, I almost teared up. It was surreal."

Collins saved 10 of the 11 break points she faced. Rybakina, meanwhile, had played four prior three-set matches in the tournament and said it took a toll.

"She's playing very aggressive," Rybakina said. "I think just these first few shots of the point, you need to be very reactive. Physically I was not at my best so I couldn't push myself. Maybe I should have maybe just risked a little bit more when I had these break points."

Rybakina saved two break points while trying to serve her way into a first-set tiebreaker. Collins finally seized the set as the Kazakh player nervously poked a backhand deep on the third set point.

In the second set, Collins broke at 4-4 as Rybakina hit a swinging volley into the net, then pounded another backhand long on break point.

Serving for the match, Collins jumped to a 30-0 lead, fell behind 30-40, then finally sealed it on the fourth match point.

"They wanted me to win so bad, I didn't want to let the crowd down," Collins said. "Elena does not give up. I just had to hang in there."

Miami Open Tennis
Danielle Collins reacts after winning a point against Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, during the women's singles final of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Lynne Sladky / AP

Her immediate plans were to enjoy Miami.

"Now I get to celebrate," Collins said. "I had so many family members fly in. We're going to have a great weekend. And I have a night out on the town. I haven't done that in a while if I can stay up for it and wear a non-tennis outfit."

Sunday's men's final pits Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner against tournament surprise Grigor Dimitrov.

Following his wins over Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev, Dimitrov will vault into the top 10 for the first time since 2018.

The Bulgarian also has a prominent fan in the stands in retired legend Serena Williams, who watched Friday's semifinals. They became pals a while ago when Williams was on the tour. A tournament official said Williams and her sister, Venus, used to call Dimitrov their "little brother.''

"She's amazing," Dimitrov said late Saturday after his three-set win over Zverev. "We stay in touch. We nearly speak on a daily basis. She said, 'I'm gonna come watch.' I was like, 'OK.' It's always very humbling to have such a supporter in your corner, and I think just before the match she came, we had a little chat. It's friendship, man."

In the men's doubles final Saturday, top-seeded Rohan Bopanna and Matt Ebden beat Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, 6-7, 6-3 (6), with the title decided on a 10-point tiebreaker.


AP tennis:

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