Super Saturday at the Olympics is a packed day for the tennis which will be rounded out with the women’s gold medal match between Angelique Kerber and Monica Puig. Chuck in a stacked qualifying day in Cincy and this is one of the best tennis days of the year!
There have been a whole host of cracking storylines on the WTA tour in 2016 but Monica Puig’s run to the Olympic final may be the most glorious one yet. Playing and fighting for her beloved Puerto Rico, Puig rolled through the draw with back-to-back 6-1 6-1 wins over Garbiñe Muguruza and Laura Siegemund to book her place in the semi-finals. Up against Petra Kvitova, Puig lost her first set of the tournament but hung tough to win in three sets, 6-4 1-6 6-3; the Puerto Rican twice failed to consolidate a break of serve in the decider but third time round, she produced some super smart serving to serve out the match to 30.
Kerber added yet another sparkling achievement to her year as she won through to the gold medal match with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Madison Keys. The American had looked the better player through much of the first set, hitting huge and taking control. Something didn’t seem quite right with Kerber who was passive and sitting back. There’s not much you can do when Keys is striking the ball like she was but Kerber looked devoid of ideas. However, Keys was unable to profit from the bright start as she missed three break points at 3-2. Kerber, who committed just two unforced errors in the opener, won four games on the trot as Keys’s game began to falter.
The second set went almost entirely with serve but had a super ending with some dramatic games and rip-roaring tennis. Kerber went down three break points at *4-4 *0-40 but she saved all three; Kerber played some positive tennis down break points although Keys should have put away a winner on the third break point, instead finding the net. As Keys served to stay in the set, she then quickly found herself down *0-40. The American clawed her way back into contention, saving four match points with some wonderfully controlled hitting.
In the longest game of the match at 5-5, Kerber refocused superbly well after the missed opportunities as she saved two break points to hold to 6-5. Kerber sealed the game on a remarkable angle-laden rally where she somehow managed to retrieve Keys’s beautifully angled backhands before the American went into the net going down-the-line. The pressure eventually told on Keys as Kerber broke for the victory.The key stat in this one: Keys went 0 out of 10 on break points. Respect to Madison though for such a classy handshake at the end. Kerber, solid and resolute, and playing the big points better, confirmed her place in the gold medal match.
Head-to-head record: Kerber leads Puig, 2-0 in their head-to-head with wins in Brisbane (3-6 6-4 7-6(7), 2013) and Toronto (6-2 6-3, 2015).
Final thoughts: Major yay for the final! Puig has had a marvellous week and i’m chuffed she is guaranteed a medal. I wonder if that may take the pressure off a little but she’s obviously gunning for the gold! The Olympics has elevated her game and she’ll no doubt go into this final believing that she can win having already taken out the likes of Muguruza and Kvitova; her self-belief and confidence is one of her biggest strengths.
Kerber’s year has been truly remarkable and it’s her mental toughness that has come on leaps and bounds. The loss to Safarova in Singapore last year has acted as a springboard that has seen her reach the finals of Melbourne, Wimbledon and now Rio. Kerber now has that experience of big finals but Puig is the type of fearless character who will likely not be overawed.
This has all the makings of a terrific match; in terms of who I want to win, i’m honestly 50-50 and will be happy whoever triumphs. Puig prevailing would be an incredible story. In terms of who I think will win, I am leaning ever so slightly to Kerber because of the way she has handled pressure this year and managed to play some of her best tennis in the big matches and key moments.
Can’t wait for this one!