Collins, an unseeded American here at the Australian Open, dropped just two games and hit 29 winners against Kerber, who seemed stunned by Collins' attack from the opening game. The break, otherwise known as an unofficial tennis timeout, did not work, as Collins ran away with the match 6-0, 6-2.
But if there is anyone in Melbourne who isn't surprised by the play of the two-time NCAA singles champ from the University of Virginia, it is Danielle Collins. In on-court interviews and in her first formal news conference in Melbourne this week, she has displayed the unapologetic confidence of a player who has been here before. Only thing is, she hasn't. Collins had never beaten a top-five player before Kerber, and she'd never won a match at a major before the first round of this tournament.
"I may not have won a Grand Slam match before this week," Collins, 25, said on-court after defeating Kerber, "but I gotta tell you, I think it's gonna keep happening."
Not surprisingly, those remarks drew a reaction from the crowd. Rare is the player, especially in the women's game, who is willing to speak with the same boldness and self-assuredness with which she swings a racket.
"From the very first point, I showed her that I wasn't going to let her into the match, that I was going to dictate the entire way through," Collins said later. "I stuck to my game plan. It clearly worked out well for me. Pretty much smooth sailing throughout the entire thing."
When asked whether she's surprised by how well she has performed this fortnight, becoming the first former collegiate player in 15 years to advance to the quarterfinals of a Slam, Collins answered, "Honestly, no." She knows she has the talent to beat the top players in the world; it's the rest of the world that is just finding out.
"I think the biggest difference is now I'm playing in bigger tournaments every week," Collins said. "I'm playing a full WTA schedule. I'm playing against bigger opponents that people are more familiar with."
And she's playing incredible tennis against them, able to maintain her confidence and composure throughout even the toughest moments of the matches. When Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam champ, became increasingly vocal after taking a point from Collins on an unforced error in the second set, Collins made it clear she would not be intimidated, yelling, "Come on!" after hitting a drop-shot winner and slowing Kerber's momentum.
"I love making it kind of a war," Collins said. "If somebody wants to get in my face on my unforced errors, I have no problem getting right back at them and making it a feisty match. I love that, embrace it. I love when things get competitive. Whether people are for me or against me, I'm not really fazed by it. I kind of like it more when people cheer against me because I want to prove them wrong."
Collins has been preparing for this moment since she turned pro in 2016, shortly after graduating from UVA with a degree in media studies and a master's degree in business. Since then, she has climbed steadily up the WTA rankings, breaking into the top 100 for the first time last season after advancing to the fourth round at Indian Wells. In Miami, she became the first qualifier in history to make the semifinals after scoring upsets over No. 37 Irina-Camelia Begu, CoCo Vandeweghe, Donna Vekic and Monica Puig -- and beating her idol, Venus Williams, in the quarterfinals.
But at Slams, she struggled, losing in the third round of qualifying in Melbourne and in the first round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.
"I had some tough situations last year," Collins said. "Let's face it, I played [Caroline] Wozniacki first round at the French, [Elise] Mertens first round at Wimbledon, [Aryna] Sabalenka first round at the US Open. I lost to really good players. I had some opportunities in those matches to maybe have a different outcome. Everybody gets their shot at the pie. Right now, I'm certainly getting mine."
Danielle Collins continues her miraculous run at the Australian Open by defeating Angelique Kerber in straight sets 6-0, 6-2.
Collins is not happy just to be here or honored to be playing against the best women in the world, and she's not about to say so simply for the sound bite. She believes she deserves to be on this stage and expects to win her matches no matter how deeply into the draw they take place. She and her coaches know that mentality is as dangerous a part of her game as her ferocious forehand.
"She's very tenacious," Mat Cloer, one of Collins' coaches, said after her fourth-round win. "She wants to win at everything. That's a massive quality she has and it's nothing against the girl on the other side of the net. She likes to fight and it's something we encourage her to do. Be yourself. Don't hide anything. It's fun to watch."
Fortunately for fans, they'll have another shot to catch Collins in action. In Tuesday's quarterfinals, she will face No. 42 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. ET), who upset Sloane Stephens in a late-night three-setter in the last round. There she'll experience yet another first: playing as the favorite in a Grand Slam match, officially an underdog no more.