MELBOURNE :World number one Iga Swiatek battled back from two breaks down in the final set to beat Danielle Collins 6-4 3-6 6-4 on Thursday and reach the third round of the Australian Open for the fifth successive year.
Collins might be ranked 62nd in the world but has a good record at Melbourne Park and beat Swiatek in the semi-finals two years ago before going on to lose to Ash Barty in the title-decider.
Four-times Grand Slam champion Swiatek has an excellent record against lower-ranked players but really had to dig deep into her reserves to overcome Collins in a dramatic but scrappy three-hour contest on Rod Laver Arena.
The 30-year-old Collins faltered in her serve at key moments in the match and Swiatek found her best tennis late in the decisive set to move onto a third-round clash with Czech Linda Noskova.
“Oh my god, honestly, I was already at the airport,” said Swiatek, whose run to the 2022 semis was her best showing at Melbourne Park.
“I wanted to fight until the end, she played perfectly but it would be hard for anybody to keep that level so I wanted to be ready when mistakes were going to come from the other side.
“I wanted to push then and I did that at the end and I’m really proud of myself because it wasn’t easy.”
Collins drew first blood with a break for 3-1 in the opening set but Swiatek broke straight back to love and the match was locked up at 3-3 when a shower interrupted play for half an hour as the roof was closed.
Swiatek came out firing on the resumption, racing around the court to win four straight games to lock up the first set and go a break up in the second.
That seemed to galvanise Collins and the 30-year-old American ramped up the speed of her groundstrokes to rattle off the next five games and serve for the second set.
“I felt I had the momentum going and she suddenly started playing two times faster,” Swiatek recalled.
“I had no idea how to react to that for a couple of games but I just came back and thought the only thing I can focus on is myself.”
Five double faults helped Swiatek save four set-points and the Pole fought off another on her own serve before Collins finally got over the line at the sixth attempt to level up the contest after more than two hours on court.
Collins was by no means done yet and two breaks gave her a 4-1 lead in the decider but that was as good as it got for the American, who raced straight off court at the end and later announced she would be retiring this year.
“I lost 6-4 in the third to one of the best players in the world, and she played some great tennis. Left it all on the court,” Collins said.
“I don’t really know exactly when, but this will be my last season and I’m really looking forward to that.”
Swiatek saw two match points saved in the final game but finally sealed the deal when she seized on a Collins dropshot and sent a sizzling backhand down the line.