Florida Gators Women’s tennis player Danielle Collins has been playing her sport since the age of three.
The 19-year-old freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla. has tried other sports, but tennis was the sport where she excelled the most.
“I really wanted to get some trophies, so my dad told me tennis would be the easiest way to get some,” Collins said.
Her dad Wally influenced her from an early age to pick up tennis since he played when he was younger.
Collins now finds herself ranked as one of the elite freshmen in women’s tennis. Coming into the season she was ranked as the eighth best freshman in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls.
But, even with such a high ranking and the attention that comes with it, she has not lost her focus. Instead, she finds peace whenever she steps onto the courts.
“I like being on the court for a couple of hours and just being able to zone out on the ball while focusing on playing and not having to worry about other things—it’s kind of nice,” Collins said.
Growing up, Collins overpowered her opponents in the under-12 division and became the No. 1 player in the nation due to her domination of her peers.
To match-up against better competition, she moved up age levels. But, not to the under-14s level. Collins jumped all the way up to the under-18 division; a leap that would quickly soon pay off for her.
When she was 15, Collins achieved one of her biggest goals—a No. 1 ranking in the girls 18s.
Two years later, she would be handed a check for $10,000 with her first win in a pro tournament, the Kingsmill Resort Tennis Classic.
“I went into that tournament thinking ‘oh these girls are so much better than me,’ but I was able to come out and realize that I was just as good as any of them,” Collins said.
Her confidence and tennis skills earned her a 5-star ranking from Tennis Recruiting’s website and a full scholarship to the University of Florida.
But, the transition from high school to college hasn’t been easy for Collins. In high school, she mainly focused on improving her tennis skills. Now at UF, she is learning to cope with the rigorous academics.
“I always remind myself that I want to be the best I can be not only with tennis but academics, and right now it’s really important that I start off with a good foundation my freshman year,” Collins said.
Her goals are lofty. An NCAA team title and the NCAA individual title is what she is vying for.
In her first semester in college, she was ranked No. 15 in doubles when paired with senior Lauren Embree. Over the course of the fall semester, Collins compiled a 9-3 doubles record. She also was ranked No. 22 in the nation in singles, posting a 13-3 record.
But being one of the best players is what Collins has been accustomed to her entire tennis career, and her ability to perform in the spotlight will be critical for the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team which is beginning their quest for a third national championship in three years.