Small standout is in pursuit of some big dreams

Published June 8, 2005

Danielle Collins may be small, but the 11-year-old has a strong desire for a tennis career.

Since the 4-foot-11 Collins first swung a racquet at 3 and entered her first tournament at 8, she's dreamed of being a professional player.

Collins reached the state's elite in the 10-and-under singles division in 2003 and moved up to the 12 competition. Currently ranked among the top three in the 12 class, Collins has collected three consecutive designated tournament singles championships. In April, she won the 12 ATP Gator Bowl Championship.

"I've improved a lot on my kick serve," Collins said. "I had all different motions, and my elbow was dropping. Last year, too, I hit a lot of high, or moon, balls. I still hit them, but I also hit with pace and depth."

Collins' primary coach is her father, Wally, although she's worked with Krishnan Anandan, Kevin Manning and the late Dan Sullivan. Collins participates in some of Kevin Quay's camps at Isla Del Sol Country Club.

"Danielle is solid fundamentally, but what separates her is her heart and mind," said Quay, tennis director at Isla. "She's an incredible fighter. She plays smart and makes changes when necessary.

"I watched Danielle at the last designated in Boca Raton and was impressed," he said. "She lost the first set 6-3, changed her style of play and turned it around to win the next two sets 6-0, 6-0." Collins was the top seed in the designated and realized in the first set of her opening match that her opponent, older and bigger than her, liked hitting balls with pace. When Collins began to keep the ball in play more, rather than trying to hit winners early in the point, she moved the ball around and thought she wore out her opponent.

"Danielle's game is evolving naturally, and I feel we're doing the right thing," Wally Collins said. "She's playing in her age group and is under a lot of pressure because her peers want to beat her. I believe playing under pressure like that helps develop the killer instinct that she'll need to win later on." Danielle Collins and her dad can be found practicing almost every day about 6 a.m. at Puryear Park. "She hits a lot of balls and that makes a difference," Wally said. Collins is focused for this weekend's USA Tennis Florida State Closed Sectional. When competing in the 10 division, she reached the quarterfinals. Last year, she lost in the first round. This season, Collins is determined to do better. She wants to become a pro at 14 after achieving a No. 1 ranking in the 16 division at 13.

"Realistically, my hope is that Danielle can pick her school, although I know she has other ideas," Wally said. "Whether her goal or mine, I believe she's on her way."

LEAGUE NEWS: The St. Petersburg Country Club 2.5 women's team captured its second straight USA Tennis Florida district championship with a 3-0 victory over Renaissance Vinoy last weekend. Playing for SPCC was Lynne Steiner (singles), Laurin Fronduto-Weir and Ada Bussey (No. 1 doubles) and Marlene Guerrier and Karen O'Connell (No. 2). Rounding out the squad are captain Margaret Clough, Claudia Roberts, Marie Rinadi, Faith Alford, Deborah Masi and Georgine Higginbotham.

--In the women's 3.0, Countryside Mayhew beat Safety Nets 4-1, advancing to the championship with Countryside Walker. Mayhew's team won the district final 4-1.

--The 4.0 men's round-robin playoff began last weekend with Seminole Lake Tennis Center beating the Racquet Club and McMullen Walker defeating the Vinoy. Action continues the next two weekends.

MIXED PLAY: Royal Racquet Club is having the Florida State Closed Mixed Doubles Championships on June 18-20. Competition in the 35-and-over, 45, 55 and open divisions is available. Call 799-3200. NET SHOTS: The USA 45-and-over team, captained for the third consecutive year by Jeff Winkler, played in the Potter Cup international competition in Barcelona, Spain, last month. Defending champion USA beat Great Britain 4-1 but fell 4-3 to Italy in a semifinal. Winkler won his No. 5 singles match over Great Britain in a three-setter, defeating a national clay court champion in the 50 division.

--Second-seeded Agatha Ambrozy (12-and-under) and Julia Claire Jones (16) and unseeded Philip McQuade upset No. 1 players to win their respective divisions in the Phil Green Tennis Academy Summer Classic in Safety Harbor. Among the finalists were Amy Lowther (12), Macey Cook (14), Ricky Szymanski (12) and Brian Shim (16). Consolation winners included Kimberly Herrock (12), Melissa Smith (16), Jeremy Fisch (12), David Yang (14) and Satoshi Yabuuchi (16).

--Weekly full-day and half-day camps for players 6-16 are offered by the Tennis Connection at various Tampa Bay facilities. Contact 813 949-9195 or www.TheTennisConnection.com

VOLUNTEERS WANTED: The Academy Prep Summer Tennis Camp is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 20-24 at St. Pete Tennis Center. To volunteer, contact 823-2225 or MrTennis55@aol.com