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Ali Collins following in Andy and Jamie Murray's footsteps

Ali Collins in action at Wimbledon in 2016. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Judy Murray calls her the third-best player in Dunblane, a small city in north west Scotland, with a population of just 9,000.

But since Dunblane is the birthplace of singles world No. 1 Andy Murray and Jamie Murray, half of the No. 1 doubles partnership, Scottish teenager Ali Collins is in pretty good company.

At 16, Collins is just starting out on the Tour, playing in her first overseas junior Grand Slam event at the Australian Open this weekend. But she's already reaping the rewards of her Dunblane connections, from help with sponsorship to practicing with Andy Murray over Christmas.

"I was just at home on Boxing Day, and my Dad got a text to say, 'Does Ali want to come and hit with Andy?'" a smiling Collins said at Melbourne Park on Saturday. "I said, 'Yeah, of course.' It was amazing what he did, to come to hit with us, then he hit with some younger kids as well. It was pretty good; he hits the ball really well."

Until last March, Judy Murray was the captain of Britain's Fed Cup team, keeping a close eye on all the country's top players. But she is well known for her generosity with Scotland's juniors, and she believes Collins has the talent to go a long way, describing her as having "world-class volleys."

In some ways, being spoken of in the same breath as Andy and Jamie Murray could add pressure, but Collins, who describes herself as fiery, competitive and a bit loud, sees it as an advantage.

"It's really nice to hear that from Judy," she said. "She's such a good coach. She's helped me from when I was really young, so it's nice to hear when she says things like that. She gives me bits of advice here and there, tries to really help me. I feel like she's a good person to have on my side."

Collins recently returned home to Scotland after nine months at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Naples, Florida, a move funded by her parents, with the help of sponsorship Judy Murray helped her secure. Though she enjoyed the experience, a couple of injuries stopped her momentum, and she became homesick. But a return home seems to have done the trick.

"It was a hard year last year, and then just recently, I would say, I've really started to feel myself again, and I am enjoying myself on court and am loving it again," she said.

Jamie Murray has been impressed by her ability. "She's good. She can play," he said in Melbourne this week. "I think she maybe lost her way a little the last year, but she's back home training, getting back on track. She's got some skills. She likes to do things maybe other girls don't do, and I think if you develop that stuff, then you can give her an edge. She likes to come forward, move the ball around, slice and stuff. She's definitely got skills."

Dunblane hit the news for tragic reasons in 1996, when a gunman killed 16 children and one teacher in the local school, attended at the time by both Murray brothers. The exploits of Andy and Jamie have given the city a renewed sense of pride, something Collins said is tangible.

"I think it's pretty inspirational knowing they're from the same place as I am," Collins said. "It shows it can be done in a really small place. It's nice; there's a vibe there now. Everybody knows where Andy and Jamie are from. I like it."

Collins missed Murray's homecoming in Dunblane after he won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, but she takes every opportunity she can to see him play. She's full of admiration for what Johanna Konta, the world No. 9, is doing in the women's game, but Murray is still the man.

"He's still my idol now, looking up to him," she said. "I wasn't there for his Wimbledon wins, but I went to watch one year at Wimbledon, and last year, when I was playing juniors, we got in to watch him play as well. I think it was his third round."

Having decided to not continue her schooling when she returned home from Florida, Collins has taken up deejaying, a good distraction from the intensity of the tennis world. Quietly determined, she is confident she can forge a good career but knows it will take time.

"Obviously, I would love to get to the top of the women's game, but I just want to keep improving and enjoying myself -- I think that's the most important thing," she said. "I think you just have to keep working hard and be resilient. I think it's going to be so hard to get there, but if I can keep the mindset and keep trying to improve day by day, hopefully one day, maybe I can."