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Collins driven on by memories of ‘$50 and Greyhound bus’ at Roland Garros

Danielle Collins basked in the achievement of reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals on Tuesday and insisted the harsh lessons of life on the road travelling to the less glamorous outposts of tennis have kept her grounded. Collins, 26, is through to the last eight at a major for the second time and will play fellow American Sofia Kenin for a place in the semi-finals. The world number 57 is one of five unseeded players in the quarter-finals in Paris, the most since Grand Slam tournaments were expanded to 32 seeds in 2001. However, she does not share the gripes of other players at the tournament who have complained about the restrictions over movement imposed as a result of living in a ‘bubble’ to counter the effects of the coronavirus. “I know what it’s like having $50 in my bank account and being worried if I’m going to be able to get to the next place that I need to go. I know what it’s like being on a Greyhound bus,” said Collins after clinching a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Tunisian 30th seed Ons Jabeur on Tuesday. “I think those are the experiences that give us the strength to go out on court and play so intensely in high-pressured moments. When we get to stay at nice hotels, you feel grateful to be able to be in these situations. When you get to ride in a nice luxury car that’s being brought to us by the sponsors of the event, it’s a good feeling.  “So I think those experiences make us stronger in the long run. I know I’m not the only tennis player that’s had those experiences. I think most of the tennis players on tour have had those types of experiences and use them to feed their hunger or to be the best they can be.”

Collins, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open last year, was a two-time national singles champion at the University of Virginia and turned professional after graduating in 2016 with a degree in media studies.

“I did kind of go an untraditional route and it took me a while to kind of figure everything out,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure everything out on this tour.”

She lost in the first round of last month’s US Open but has since teamed up with former top 10 player and clay specialist Nicolas Almagro, a three-time quarter-finalist in Paris.

“It’s a really special treat for me to be able to work with him,” said Collins, who beat Kenin in straight sets at Adelaide in January.

On Tuesday, she demonstrated her strength of character not just on the court, but off it as well, blasting some members of the media for their “frivolous” questions for focusing on the tournament being played in the midst of the pandemic and with infection rates in Paris leading to tighter local restrictions. “I just played a three-set match and I won 6-4 in the third, and I haven’t gotten one question from you or the woman from The New York Times asking about the match. I’m just a little bit baffled by that,” she said.

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