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Strong will, hard work

Danielle Collins, 16, is No. 1 in the country in the USTA girls 18 rankings. She took over that spot after winning the USTA National Spring Championships last month in Mobile, Ala. “When I was younger I thought all the girls were a lot better than me,” she says. “But I worked harder than them. Eventually I caught up to them.’’


Danielle Collins, 16, is No. 1 in the country in the USTA girls 18 rankings. She took over that spot after winning the USTA National Spring Championships last month in Mobile, Ala. “When I was younger I thought all the girls were a lot better than me,” she says. “But I worked harder than them. Eventually I caught up to them.’’

It is 2003, and Danielle Collins is in third grade. There is a show and share, and fellow student Garrett Betsarakis is getting applause from his classmates for all the tennis trophies he won.

Collins is not clapping.

"She was crying because they cheered for him and not for her,'' said her father, Wally Collins. "She just thought they handed you those trophies. I told her that's not the way it worked. You have to earn them.''

That was all the motivation Collins needed. She and her father would hit balls at local courts like Denver Park, Puryear Park, Crescent Lake and Woodlawn. By age 10, she was beating her dad, as well as most other girls in the area.

Pretty soon she was playing up in age group. Now 16, Collins plays local and national tournaments in the 18-year-old age group. After winning the USTA National Spring Championships on March 26-28 in Mobile, Ala., Collins vaulted to No. 1 in the country in the USTA girls 18 rankings. In the country.

"I set my goal to be No. 1 in the country in the 18s when I was 16,'' Collins said. "But I didn't think I'd get there. I didn't expect it. It's kind of a shock to me. Wow, I won a super national. Now what?

"I've got to keep up the hard work. I need to find a new goal to set.''

Collins is known by most of the local tennis community. She trains all around town, but mostly at the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg and at Bardmoor Country Club.

She puts in between three and five hours of practice per day with hitting partner Nick Berning. Practice doesn't bother her. She knows it's necessary in order to stay on top.

"I don't see myself as being really, really talented,'' Collins said. "I just think that I've put in a lot of hard work and it's paid off. When I was younger I thought all the girls were a lot better than me. But I worked harder than them. Eventually I caught up to them.''

Collins is in a good spot. She is a couple years from making a choice on college or professional tennis, and she is playing on the Northeast High tennis team. She was homeschooled by her mother, Cathy, but decided to go to public school this year.

"Homeschooling was really boring,'' she said. "I hated it; I missed my friends. I decided to go back to school.

"I get really into high school matches. I love it. I don't know why. I guess I like the atmosphere. I've got my eye on the state championship.''

Collins said she will decide later about college or pro tennis. Until then, she plans to work on her mental and physical game.

"I think I lack confidence,'' Collins said. "I get nervous. I get really down on myself. I'm kind of a perfectionist. It's bad. I have a problem with that. But I think that's why I'm where I am.''

More tennis

Jade Smith of St. Petersburg won the girls 14 singles championship at the Harbour Island Athletic Club Local Tournament on Feb. 13-15. Smith was the No. 2 seed and defeated Senka Radovic 2-6, 6-4, 10-6.

• The Clearwater Junior Local Spring Classic was held March 25-27. The boys 18 singles winner was Jimmi Parsons, the 16 winner was Christopher Pollan, the 14 winner was Evan Holvoet, the 12 winner was Peter Litsky and the 10 winner was Christopher Reilly. On the girls side, the 18 singles champ was Alexandra Kitchen, the 16 winner was Ann-Marie Mooney, the 14 winner was Sarah Yaffe, the 12 winner was Chrysoula Kapelonis and the 10 winner was Gracyn Williams.

• The East Lake Spring Jr. Rookie Tournament was held March 27-28 at East Lake Woodlands CC. The boys 16 singles winner was Justin White, the 12 winner was Todd Kaiser and the 10 winner was Toby Kodat. The girls 16 winner was Sarah Wall, the 14 winner was Caroline Beck, the 12 winner was Carly Spoerl and the 10 winner was Sanyukta Gawande.


Matthew Ruel of Oldsmar won the Premier Junior Golf Tour's Spring Classic at Belleair Country Club. Ruel, 12, shot 80 to win the tournament, his second straight on the Premier Tour.

• Largo Golf Course held its bimonthly 18-hole scramble March 27. The team of Greg Farrey (Seminole), Mike Monahan (Largo) and Denny Dorn (Largo) won the event with a score of 46.


The Tampa Bay Turners of St. Petersburg won two state titles at the Florida State Championships in Daytona Beach on March 27. The Level 7 and prep optional teams were state champions. Prep optional winners were Emily Kate Swan (beam, floor), Makayla Adams (vault, bars, beam, all-around), Hannah Mixson (bars, floor, all-around), Alaina Massaro (bars) and Cassidy Slockett (floor). Level 7 winners were Emily Long (floor), Emily Broida (beam, floor, all-around), Thea Fries (floor) and Nathania Beltran (vault). Broida qualified for the Florida State Team for Level 7 regionals and Long, Beltran, Charity Chen and Sarah Boyd qualified for Level 7 region competition in Tupelo, Miss., on April 16-18.

• Apollo Gymnastics of Clearwater also competed in Daytona Beach. Lillian Zeman was first in the state on bars and Lucia Russo was first on bars. Zeman and Jacklyn McGonigle qualified for the region meet in Tupelo.

Strong will, hard work 04/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 12:04am]
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