Rio Olympics 2016, Gold Medal Match Preview: Monica Puig v Angelique Kerber

Puig

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!

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

15 thoughts on “Rio Olympics 2016, Gold Medal Match Preview: Monica Puig v Angelique Kerber

  1. Still cannot believe it!!!!! So happy 🙂 🙂 🙂 Also, I love that Puig made it to the final. I wonder how she is going to take this form and belief to the circuit? The game is certainly there, I think she is a good allrounder and se could finish Top 15 this year! Fingers crossed 🙂
    Few words to Madison: I really love seeing her when she is on. Tennis seems so easy for her. If she could just cut down some of those all-or-nothing shots and hit with control (as she did when MP’s down) she will definitely win at least one slam!!!! Also, I think she will rather do it in one of the hard court slams or RG than in Wimby. I know that she has two gras court titles to date but her game is perfectly made for slow, high bouncing courts!!

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    • Agree about Madison, i’m so impressed with her improvements this year. Still some way to go but I have absolutely no doubt that she’ll win a Slam in her career. Not sure she’ll ever get the consistency to be a world number one but she’s become a solid top ten player these past few months which I doubted before the year.

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      • Keys has impressed me also! Unlike other big hitters who have come before her, she seems really eager to learn from her mistakes and really try to work on all parts of her game. A couple of years ago she had no plan B and now we’re starting to see one. Her serve is nearing perfection and she’s putting spin on her huge groundstrokes. She’s also clearly trying to figure out when to strike and when to trade, which is uncharacteric for a big hitter.

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  2. I’ve loved Puig for a few years now. I thought she was the real deal when she started making waves in 13/4 but she just couldn’t put it together. She has everything, really, she’s so quick and athletic and can chase down anything and yet she has some of the biggest, cleanest hitting on the tour. Her serve is a weapon and she’s one of the very few women who hits a first serve on her second serve and gets it right. She uses spin, she uses slices and drop shots. And her attitude is an A+. Her reactions to losing the title in Sydney to Kuznetsova were so so gracious!

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    • I’ve debated Puig’s potential with others on some tennis forums and the consensus is that she is a well rounded player, a bit like Simona but with a better serve. It’s the mental attitude that pulls Halep(mental grit) away from her. This is why I feel her turn around could be just one great win at tournament and them boom…we may see a different Puig from then on. She could win this, just has to cope with Kerber’s defensive play and stay in it. Kerber is a very fortunate girl this year, everything is falling into place where she wants it to this year. As they say, fortune favours the prepared mind, and she’s taking her chances well.

      With Serena getting a wild card into Cincy, will she still be in Rio for the Closing Ceremony ? And, btw, Martina says she will hookup with Mirza to play the YEC final. So the separation was likely to help them rejuvenate their game, less personal.

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      • I think Puig has more fire power than a Halep or a Kerber. For her it’s going to be about finding the balance between playing aggressively and playing not overhitting against defensive players, and having to be more patient when playing against women who hit bigger than her. It’s a dilemma that Svetlana Kuznetsova has had to contend with for years.

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      • Agreed, she certainly does play with more power than Simona, then in that sense Simona is fortunate to have just the right balance of strength.

        Well played to Petra, taking the bronze medal, with either Czech team taking Bronze again in the doubles.

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    • True. Even if she felt really hurt but at least she should show her sportsmanship. It was really very poor. I am so glad that Puig won the gold medal.

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    • I thought it was only me who thought Kerber seemed a little…unfriendly. I can understand she was disappointed but at the end of the day she was outplayed and since she was in the other shoes in Melbourne you’d think her a little more gracious.

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  3. So SO thrilled for Puig. It was a rolls royce performance, one of the top 3 best of the year and maybe even the very best. What was the winner count in the end??

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    • 54! I’m gutted for Angie but on the other hand totally agree with you. I think Monica made some new fans (including me). Please, bring this to the circuit. If she can maintain a level like that she will easily be TOP 5. Maybe this victory is some sort of trigger!!

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      • She has brought it to the tour, just not completely consistently. But her matches against Stosur in Sydney and Goerges in Paris are two of the best performances by anybody this year!

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