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Collins vs Azarenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Australian Open semifinalist Collins starts WTA Acapulco campaign

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 26 Feb 2019
  • Danielle Collins faces Victoria Azarenka in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel
  • Collins vs Azarenka is live from Acapulco on Tuesday at 7pm local/1am GMT
Danielle Collins (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In a rematch of a San Jose clash ended by retirement last summer, second seed Danielle Collins faces former WTA world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka in Acapulco.

Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins takes on Victoria Azarenka, searching for her best form, in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco on Tuesday.

Danielle Collins (GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
The rise of Collins, a former (and very successfully) college player, has been meteoric: She only turned pro in 2016 but was inside the top 200 by the end of 2017. Still I don’t think anybody could have predicted the giant leaps she has continued to make in the past year or so, the first of which came on the hard courts of the USA and began about this time last year. Collins, then ranked world no. 162, put together an 18-5 run which began with her winning the WTA 125k title at Newport Beach and saw her go on to make the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells WTA 125k; granted a wildcard into the BNP Paribas Open itself, where she beat Madison Keys on her way to the round of 16; won seven matches at the Miami Open, playing herself into the main draw through qualifying, past Coco Vandeweghe, Donna Vekic and Venus Williams before her run was stopped in the semifinals by Jelena Ostapenko; and reach the quarterfinals of the WTA International event in Monterrey.

It was an incredible run of results which saw the hitherto little-known Collins catapulted up to world no. 53, and she kept on climbing – albeit much more slowly: She would go 6-6 on clay and grass before celebrating a return to American hard courts with a run to the semifinals of the Premier-level Mubadala SVC in San Jose, where Azarenka was among her victims before Collins herself fell to Maria Sakkari.

Collins would only win two more matches after San Jose in 2018, but she has already proved she was no one-season wonder with her start to the 2019 season. After falling to Petra Kvitova in a tightly-contested match in Brisbane, Collins successfully qualified for Sydney before losing to Su-Wei Hsieh – and then went on an absolute tear in Melbourne, where she defeated five-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and three players ranked inside the top 20, Julia Goerges, Caroline Garcia and Angelique Kerber, to make her first Grand Slam semifinal. 

It’s hard to explain how good Collins was during that run – especially against Kerber, where she completely ripped the match out of the second seed’s hands, allowing the stunned German just two matches in the process. I had thought of her as primarily a counterpuncher and scrambler in 2018, but she played so aggressively and commandingly in Melbourne, really taking the ball so early and dictating points with her forehand. It shocked her opponents, and raised intriguing questions about just how good Collins can be.

Collins’s run was finally ended in the semifinals by Kvitova, who took charge when the roof was closed and ended up winning 7-6(2), 6-0, and the American has only played one match since, earning a three-set win over Daria Gavrilova during Fed Cup earlier this month. She is making her debut at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, where she is seeded second behind Sloane Stephens thanks to her new ranking of world no. 25: Will it be a winning one?

If Collins has been rising, Victoria Azarenka has been sinking – not drowning, but definitely struggling. It’s easy to forget just what a rollercoaster the past years have been for the two-time Australian Open champion: First a lengthy absence from competition with a serious foot injury, followed by a climb back up the rankings. Then when she had broken back into the top five after winning the Sunshine Double in 2016, an unexpected pregnancy which meant she didn’t play from that May until the following June, when Azarenka played just two events before a custody dispute with the father of her son Leo kept her effectively imprisoned in California. 

After playing just six matches in the past 21 months, Azarenka returned to action at Indian Wells last year and gleefully put together a great semifinal run in Miami, beating four top-20 players. It seemed to presage a race back up the rankings – but that didn’t really transpire. Azarenka would win back-to-back matches just three more times in 2018 and ended the year at world no. 51 with a 17-12 record, of which five wins came in Miami alone.

Victoria Azarenka has been struggling for form (DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Azarenka is 1-3 so far in 2019, losing to Venus Williams in Auckland, Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open and Kvitova in the second round of St Petersburg – all very good opponents and tough draws, but it can’t be palatable for the Belarusian, who has reportedly suffered a significant setback in the ongoing custody battle, that she has only really made the headlines for dissolving into tears after her Melbourne defeat, a moment featured in Nike’s recent ‘crazy women’ advert.

‘I've been through a lot of things in my life. Sometimes I wonder why I go through them,’ Azarenka said in that press conference.

‘I think they're going to make me stronger. I want to believe that and I'm going to work hard for it. Right now is just a harder struggle for me. I can continue to repeat this word, that I'm struggling right now. I think it's pretty obvious.’

To summarise all of the above: Azarenka badly needs a win, or preferably more than one. Will she get it in Acapulco as she takes on second-seeded Collins?

It’s a bit tough to call. Collins is, for a start, streaky, but these are hard courts of the American continent, where the conditions should suit her. The one meeting between them so far saw Azarenka take the first set in a tie-break before retiring 0-3 down in the second, but it was a very close battle; moreover, the way Collins played at the Australian Open, her more aggressive approach, should stand her in absolutely great stead against Azarenka’s game. Whether she will be able to reproduce that form is an open question; the current level of Azarenka’s game and state of mind is another. I think it’s going to be a long close battle.

Collins vs Azarenka Abierto Mexicano Telcel tennis is live from Acapulco from 7pm local/1pm GMT

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Collins vs Azarenka tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Australian Open semifinalist Collins starts WTA Acapulco campaign

Danielle Collins vs Victoria Azarenka live streaming, preview and predictions for the Abierto Mexicano Telcel first-round match on Tuesday 26 February: Azarenka has been struggling while Collins had a career-best Australian Open, but who will find form in Acapulco?

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