MELBOURNE (AFP) – Fired-up American Danielle Collins stayed on track for match her 2019 Melbourne Park heroics as she battled through an epic against Elise Mertens to make the Australian Open quarterfinals on Monday.
The 27th seed outlasted 19th seeded Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a 2hr 51min marathon in sweltering heat on Rod Laver Arena.
It earned her the right to play French veteran Alize Cornet for a place in the last four.
Cornet upset Simona Halep to make her first Grand Slam quarter-final on her 63rd attempt.
Both players struggled as the temperatures hit 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit) on Rod Laver Arena, but it was the 32-year-old who prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a gruelling 2hr 33min.
The breakthrough has been a long time coming for Cornet, who made her Grand Slam debut at the French Open in 2005 but had never been past the fourth round before.
Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn previously held the record for most appearances before reaching a quarter-final at this level, achieving the feat on her 45th try at Wimbledon in 2008.
“It was really tough for me, I played a long match as well the other day so I had to make a lot of technical adjustments to be able to get myself moving around,” said Collins. “That was a big challenge.”
She is the third American woman to make the last eight, with Madison Keys and Jessica Pegula also through.
Collins was an Australian Open semi-finalist three years ago, but she has failed to match that effort since.
However, she clinched her maiden WTA Tour titles in San Jose and Palermo last year to rejuvenate her career after a tough start to 2021 when she needed surgery to remove a cyst.
She had a dream start, holding comfortably then breaking Mertens.
But the Belgium soon warmed to the task and pushed Collins hard on her next service game.
The American held on but Mertens worked her first break point and converted for 1-3 when Collins netted then threw her racquet to the ground in frustration.
Constantly berating herself, Collins began to wilt in the heat as Mertens stayed cool to win five games in a row and take an enthralling set.