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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    Danielle Collins wins Miami Open on her final try, topping Elena Rybakina in straight sets

    Danielle Collins hits a return to Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, during the women's singles final of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    Miami Gardens, Fla. — Danielle Collins had the perfect send-off at her final Miami Open, beating Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to capture the title in her home state before an adoring crowd that included Andre Agassi and Martina Navratilova.

    The 30-year-old Collins announced at the Australian Open that this season would be her last because she's suffering from endometriosis, a painful ailment that affects the uterus.

    “I’m really ready to hold that trophy,” said a teary-eyed Collins, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg. “It was a battle. To the fans, I’ve played a lot of tennis, a few finals, and nothing close to this. In my home state, to come out here in front of thousands of my best friends pushing me to get over this hurdle, I was getting very emotional. It was an incredible environment. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

    Ranked No. 53 and unseeded, Collins was animated throughout the two-hour match against the fourth-ranked Rybakina, pumping her fist and staring up at the crowd that featured a big American flag early in the third row. It was too much for the ragged Rybakina, who hit several backhands long.

    On her fourth match point, Collins hit a backhand crosscourt winner, then bent over for 10 seconds without moving, seemingly in disbelief.

    It was the third career title and first since San Jose in 2021 for Collins, who became the lowest-ranked women's champion at Miami. She leaves with $1.1 million in prize money and will move up to 22nd in the rankings.

    Collins also won NCAA singles titles at Virginia in 2014 and 2016.

    In winning the first set in an hour, Collins survived four break points at 3-3. She closed out that game and faced another break-point crisis at 5-5. She won three straight points — a backhand winner, a service winner and a forehand passing shot — as the crowd thundered.

    Rybakina saved two break points while trying to serve her way into a tiebreaker. Collins finally seized the set as the Kazakh player nervously poked a backhand deep on the third set point.

    Rybakina left the court for five minutes in between sets and Collins got off to a fast start with an early break. Rybakina broke back but then squandered three break points at 3-3, hitting two straight backhands long, giving Collins the momentum.

    Collins broke at 4-4 as Rybakina hit a swinging volley into the net, then pounded another backhand long on break point.

    Sunday’s men’s final pits Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner against tournament surprise Grigor Dimitrov.

    Following his wins over Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev, Dimitrov will vault into the top 10 for the first time since 2018.

    The Bulgarian also has a prominent fan in the stands in retired legend Serena Williams, who watched Friday’s semifinals. They became pals a while ago when Williams was on the tour. A tournament official said Williams and her sister, Venus, used to call Dimitrov their “little brother.’’

    “She’s amazing,” Dimitrov said late Saturday after his three-set win over Zverev. “We stay in touch. We nearly speak on a daily basis. She said, ‘I’m gonna come watch.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ It’s always very humbling to have such a supporter in your corner, and I think just before the match she came, we had a little chat. It’s friendship, man.”

    In the men’s doubles final Saturday, top-seeded Rohan Bopanna and Matt Ebden beat Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, 6-7, 6-3 (6), with the title decided on a 10-point tiebreaker.

    Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, prepares to hit a return to Danielle Collins during the women's singles final of the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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